Degree-level Apprenticeships

Education – in the House of Commons at on 29 January 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Louie French Louie French Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

What steps her Department is taking to encourage the take-up of degree-level apprenticeships.

Photo of Gillian Keegan Gillian Keegan The Secretary of State for Education

The Government have built one of the most powerful apprenticeship systems in the world, reaching nearly 700 different occupations, from level 2 through to master’s degree level 7. It is great that there have been over 5.7 million starts since 2010. There are now over 170 employer-designed degree-level apprenticeships available, including for occupations such as medical doctors, space engineers, midwives, social workers—pretty much whatever. We are providing an additional £40 million in the next two financial years to support providers in expanding their offers to make sure more people can access them.

Photo of Louie French Louie French Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

The Conservatives have transformed apprenticeships since 2010, with local education providers, employers and Bexley Council all helping to make Bexley one of the top boroughs in London for apprenticeships. Does the Secretary of State agree with me that apprenticeships have a key role to play in our economy and in social mobility, and that while Labour wants to focus on teaching divisive ideas such as white privilege in schools, the Conservatives want to support people from all backgrounds to get on in life?

Photo of Gillian Keegan Gillian Keegan The Secretary of State for Education

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. Bexley’s apprenticeship event on 5 February will be a fantastic opportunity for local people to learn about the apprenticeships on offer in his constituency. We have transformed our apprenticeship system. People around the world look at us and say, “How on earth have you done that?” I am very happy to work with anybody, but all that is at risk. The Labour party would halve the number of apprenticeships, taking us back to square one.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

Sadly, the Government did not intervene to save Cumbria’s agricultural college. However, will they decide to invest in agricultural degree apprenticeships, working with the University of Cumbria and Cumbria’s further education colleges, to make sure we have a pipeline of new leaders who can feed us and care for our environment through farming?

Photo of Gillian Keegan Gillian Keegan The Secretary of State for Education

When I was apprenticeships and skills Minister, we worked together to ensure we had the right college offer in the area that was sustainable. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education will be very happy to work on that. We are looking to expand degree apprenticeships. We have provision in place to work with providers to offer many opportunities, including in agriculture.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Shadow Minister (Education)

Next week is National Apprenticeship Week, and I look forward to celebrating apprenticeships across the country. As the Secretary of State knows, small and medium-sized enterprises are crucial to delivering high-quality apprenticeships at every level throughout our economy, but the number of SME apprenticeships has plummeted by 49% since 2016, and research shows that the levy is failing to reverse the decline in employer training more widely. The Secretary of State pretends that everything is fine, but is not the real answer to back our businesses, giving them greater flexibility to enable them to deliver the training that we need to get our economy growing again?

Photo of Gillian Keegan Gillian Keegan The Secretary of State for Education

Absolutely. Obviously, one reason for the reduction in some of the SME numbers is the fact that we made improvements to ensure that every single apprenticeship was of high quality. I want to make sure that all young people who embark on an apprenticeship, as I did, put their trust in the system and get what they deserve. We have removed the limit on caps on SMEs, and we are working on reducing the number of steps to make it easier for them to access the system. We are also looking at what more we can do: we are focusing on a number of ways in which to ensure that apprenticeships work well for SMEs, which account for 70% of employment.[This section has been corrected on 29 February 2024, column 4MC — read correction] (Correction)