Our plan for jobs supports retraining and upskilling by tripling the number of traineeships, expanding sector-based work academies, incentivising apprenticeship hiring and providing funding for new, free, advanced technical courses and digital skills bootcamps under the lifetime skills guarantee.
People across Birmingham, Northfield remember only too well the impact that an economic shock can have on livelihoods and jobs in the community following the collapse of MG Rover many years ago. Does my right hon. Friend the Chancellor agree that things such as the lifetime skills guarantee will allow many adults to to train and retrain to get back into work so that they have the security of a pay packet as we ease out of lockdown and build back better following the coronavirus pandemic?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Across our nation, over 10 million adults do not have a level 3 qualification. Thanks to this Government’s lifetime skills guarantee, they will now be able to get one, and we know what that will do: it will boost both their employability and their earnings, providing them with the opportunity of a better future.
No matter where in the country people are from, everyone should be able to get the experience and knowledge they need to get the job they want. Does my right hon. Friend the Chancellor agree that the new flexi-job apprenticeships that he announced last month will boost opportunities in sectors key to Rother Valley, especially in high-end manufacturing, creating more chances for people to experience the life-changing opportunity that an apprenticeship can bring?
My hon. Friend makes a really important point. We were delighted to announce at the Budget a £7 million fund to create and expand flexi-job apprenticeship schemes, which enable people who need to work across multiple projects with different employers still to benefit from the high-quality, long-term training that an apprenticeship provides. That is particularly important in the industries of high-end manufacturing that he mentioned. I know that this will make a difference in his constituency.
My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of our focus on young people. More than half the jobs that have been lost since the start of the pandemic have been of those under the age of 25 and their rates of furlough are much higher than others. That is why, acting very early last year, we created the kickstart programme, which is creating hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country, including in my hon. Friend’s constituency. I urge all Members to talk to their local businesses to get them excited and joined up to the kickstart scheme, and to provide young people with the chance of a brighter future.
Small and medium-sized enterprises are often referenced as the beating heart of the UK economy, employing the largest number of people. That is certainly the case in my Dudley North constituency and across the west midlands, so will my right hon. Friend commit to working with colleagues in the Department for Education, the Department for Work and Pensions and with business to ensure that we improve engagement with small businesses, in particular in the design and funding of apprenticeship schemes, as they need providers to deliver much more at foundation level 2, which the current funding framework is less able to deliver? This would help to bring about the retraining revolution that our brilliant Mayor Andy Street talks about.
The brilliant Mayor Andy Street is right to talk about the retraining revolution that we need and that he is implementing in the west midlands. My hon. Friend makes an important point about the flexibility of the system to support SMEs. I am pleased to tell him that starting this August we are implementing a new scheme to allow SMEs to link with larger, levy-paying businesses through a new matching and levy transfer service that will help SMEs to access that funding and to provide the level 2 or 3 apprenticeships that he rightly identified as being important. He should also know that that scheme was based on, I think, a pilot programme that was launched in the west midlands.