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Clause 2

Part of Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 5th February 2008.

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Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners) 4:00 pm, 5th February 2008

It is a pleasure, as always, to see you in the chair, Mr. Bayley. When we concluded the morning session, I had just cited support from the British Chambers of Commerce. I shall now discuss the notion, expressed by the hon. Member for Yeovil, that employers will have to take workers who are unwilling or unable. I do not think that we would have the support of an employers’ organisation if that were the case. Judging by his facial expression, perhaps that is not what the hon. Gentleman meant: he is looking at me very quizzically.

To clarify, employers will not be required to take on any 16 and 17-year-olds. The majority of 16 and 17-year-olds in work also participate in education or training, and they and their employers will be unaffected. We certainly have no intention of compelling anybody to take on a learner—that should, perfectly reasonably, be a choice for employers.

There will be a range of engaging options available to young people who are in full-time work. Some will receive accredited training from their employer, and we are making it easier for employers to get good quality training accredited. Indeed, the hon. Member for Broxbourne reminded the Committee of the announcements last week from McDonald’s, Flybe and National Rail, which are introducing their own accredited qualifications. I was grateful to the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton for saying that those qualifications may well be better than a whole raft of qualifications accredited in the past, because they relate to the real world of work. I completely agree, and they are an important step forward for us.

For those who attend training elsewhere alongside full-time employment, the new diplomas, the foundation learning tier and elements of apprenticeship frameworks will all be available part-time, and young people can take their time to build up the full qualification. We are  confident that there will be a suitable option for all young people, whatever level they are working at; the requirement does not necessarily mean that employers have to allow young people time off from their normal working hours for training. Over half of 16 and 17-year-olds in jobs without training are in the retail sector, for example. Shops are open many more hours than 16 and 17-year-olds are legally allowed to work in a week, and it may well be that their normal weekly working hours are simply arranged for times when they are not in training. That is reinforced by the flexible availability of education and training courses from a range of providers. In the extensive speech by the hon. Member for Yeovil—