Amendment 34

Part of Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [HL] - Report (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 8:43 pm on 12 October 2021.

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Photo of Lord Aberdare Lord Aberdare Crossbench 8:43, 12 October 2021

My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 34 of the noble Lord, Lord Storey, because of the key role that apprenticeships have to play in meeting the UK’s skills challenges, as pointed out earlier by my noble friend Lord Bird. However, as it stands, the policy is not working as well as it should or could, as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Storey.

I was about to regale your Lordships with the results of a survey carried out by the energy and utilities sector, but that has already been done on my behalf, so noble Lords will be glad to hear that my speech will be even shorter. However, this illustrates that greater flexibility in the use of levy funds could actually increase the use of apprenticeships to deliver competences needed in that sector, for example through supporting pre-apprentice training initiatives in schools to increase the diversity and inclusiveness of new entrants.

Extra flexibility might allow some of the available levy funds to be used for approved high-quality shorter courses—less than one year long—or for apprenticeship-related costs outside the training itself, which might help in the perennial challenge of encouraging smaller firms to offer apprenticeships. This simple amendment merely gives the Secretary of State the power to request a much-needed review of the apprenticeship levy to ensure that it is working effectively in terms of the level of funding available for different apprenticeship standards and the opportunity to link policy on the levy more closely to other aspects of the overall skills programme. Even if the Government do not accept this amendment, I hope the Minister may say something about how they will respond to the widespread perception that the levy as it stands is not playing as effective a part in addressing the skills challenge as it should.