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Clause 2

Part of Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:00 pm on 5th February 2008.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (14-19 Reform and Apprenticeships) 6:00 pm, 5th February 2008

We can therefore debate the matter at even greater length when we discuss that clause. We may consider this to be just a preliminary discussion—early skirmishes between the Minister and myself.

The Minister is right about the matching service. It is a good development, but it is not enough. We need an all-age careers service that pulls together advice and guidance from several disparate sources. When I put that to witnesses in the evidence sessions, they agreed. The record shows that even the chief executive of Connexions was sympathetic to the principle of reinvigorating careers advice and guidance on apprenticeships through a radical change in structure. We have a cluttered landscape on advice and guidance, which is unlikely to provide a clear and coherent focus for advice and so, perhaps, will leave young people wanting.

As I said at the outset, the essence of my amendment is to underpin commitments made by the Minister again today. It is necessary to grow the number of apprenticeships to provide the level of training that is required for the numbers desired. He said that we will debate apprenticeships later. I hope that during further consideration of these matters he will have a chance to think deeply about some of the things that I said today. His contribution has been helpful, as he said that employer involvement in apprenticeships will be a  condition of public funding. I believe that he said that—perhaps he will correct me if he did not. That is certainly what I want, and if the statutory definition means anything, it means that.

I want the licensing of apprenticeships to be led by the sector skills councils, as that would be a helpful way of ensuring that the product meets the demand. We certainly need apprenticeships to teach and test real competencies. I wonder why the Minister did not say more about how we will engage small and medium-sized enterprises, and he may wish to intervene on me again to do so. We heard a lot about the new duties of SMEs. To achieve the expansion that he described, it is critical to involve many more SMEs in apprenticeships. One way of doing so is through an expansion of group training associations, and the Minister knows that I have advocated such a measure. The review did not say much about associations, but he may wish to elaborate now.