Budget Resolutions - Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:44 pm on 14th March 2017.

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Photo of Lucy Allan Lucy Allan Conservative, Telford 3:44 pm, 14th March 2017

I know that the hon. Gentleman disagrees with me, but I will continue to say that Telford is indeed the birthplace of the industrial revolution. We have our foundries, ironmasters such as Abraham Darby, the invention of the inclined plane, the Ironbridge—I could go on, but we are here to talk about skills. Over the years, through innovation and the indomitable Telford spirit, we have been able to overcome obstacles and find solutions to many problems. As a result of that innovation and spirit, Telford has become a dynamic, vibrant centre of the modern industrial revolution. From polymers and plastics to the high-tech automotive supply chain and advanced manufacturing, high-skilled, high-paid jobs are on offer to Telford’s young people.

Some years ago, I addressed sixth-form students at Abraham Darby Academy, which is in Madeley in my constituency, and said that university is not for everyone, that many graduates feel ill-equipped for the world of work on graduation and that some find themselves highly in debt in low-paid jobs. There was a bit of shuffling and an awkward silence and the teachers looked at each other and at the floor, and it became clear that almost all the students were being actively encouraged to go to university, which is what they planned to do. At that stage, however, they did not have the choice that is now being offered to students. We now have a clear-cut quality alternative for students who want to spend their post-16 years preparing for the world of work, which has to be a good thing. We have to ensure that the young people of Telford have the right skills and the work-readiness abilities to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the high-skilled, high-tech jobs that are now coming to Telford.

Employers in Telford frequently talk to me about the skills gap being a major challenge, and the Budget’s measures on technical training will address that. Telford already has some fantastic organisations that are working hard to upskill our young people. Juniper Training and the Telford College of Arts and Technology do fantastic things on work readiness and skilling young people up with technical skills. Equally important, however, is the skills training offered by primary schools in Telford. We may be doing something unique, so I want to tell the House about it because it is a model that other primary schools should look to follow.

At Dawley C of E Primary Academy, which I visited recently, every single child uses technology in the classroom in amazingly innovative and advanced ways. Children are acquiring skills that will equip them for the jobs of the future. I got to see 7-year-olds using 3D printing and computer-aided design to make flowerpots and benches for an outdoor area as if it were second nature. The school is giving children the skills to thrive in the Britain of tomorrow—skills for success in a modern economy. Pupils from Newdale Primary and Nursery School visited me in Parliament today, and one young boy told me all about how they are learning to code. Many schools do that, but we need to build on the technical skills that children learn at a young age. It is fantastic that we can build on that with a complete overhaul of 16-to-19 provision to create a workforce of tomorrow for jobs that have not even been created yet, which is vital for a vibrant economy and for our global competitiveness.

I say “Well done” to Dawley C of E Primary Academy and to Richard Smith from Amazing ICT, who goes around all the primary schools in Telford helping pupils to discover technology at the youngest possible age. They are giving students the skills they need to thrive in the modern economy and equipping them for the jobs of tomorrow. A particular “well done” goes to the Secretary of State for Education for introducing that transformative approach to skills. As with the new T-levels and the technical education routes, we are helping children to do what they wish to do, and we are boosting UK productivity and UK competitiveness in a post-Brexit world.

I welcome many of the Budget’s other measures, too. I particularly want to mention the measures for women, including the £5 million for the centenary of votes for women in 1918, as it is important that we mark that incredible milestone. I welcome the £5 million for returners and the £20 million for the victims of domestic violence, and I am glad to see those important measures.