Clause 29

Part of Further Education and Training Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 14th June 2007.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (14-19 Reform and Apprenticeships) 2:45 pm, 14th June 2007

Let us be clear about this. I enjoy these exchanges. I know that the Minister’s intentions are good and right. I do not deny that he wants this to work. But we need to be straightforward. The 2007 figures from the Office for National Statistics make it clear that the number of enrolments for advanced apprenticeships—level 3 apprenticeships—and the number of enrolments in level 2 apprenticeships are falling. That is not a cause for celebration or complacency but for considerable concern.

When I cite the Adult Learning Inspectorate it is on the basis of its work in 2006. There may have been a dramatic improvement in the last few months. I bow to the Minister’s greater—I will not say expertise—but certainly his capacity to seek advice. I do not have civil servants sitting behind me, although I have equally good advice from my hon. Friends, who are immensely well informed about these matters. They do not suggest to me that there has been that dramatic change in the last few weeks and months.

The Adult Learning Inspectorate said that it found that colleges were told to rebrand learners as apprentices simply because they were working towards qualifications such as technical certificates that were  also part of the apprenticeship framework. However, there was little prospect of these learners progressing to full apprenticeships with a work placement. The rebranding exercise enabled colleges to reach their targets for apprentice enrolments, but of the 34,000 full-time students designated as programme-led apprentices, only about 3,000 progressed to full apprenticeships.

Even allowing for that sleight of hand, the number of enrolments has fallen. Goodness knows what would have happened if there had not been that rebranding. Yet to hear the Under-Secretary one would think that there was not a problem.