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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

Countless reviews of the system have suggested that the contractual relationship should be refocused on employers. I do not want to get too nasty, because I am not nasty, particularly today. However, the Minister will understand that doubts remain about how we define employers. Employers were mentioned  in the evidence sessions. There are what one might call real employers and those whose principal or sole business is training. If an employer’s sole or principal business is training—there is nothing wrong with that—it is something of a con for it to be included in a definition of employer-based or led apprenticeships. There are real doubts—I have tried to get answers about this in parliamentary questions and elsewhere—about how we break down the employers involved in apprenticeships and define precisely what kind of organisations they are.

I want to move swiftly to a conclusion, because the final point in the programme for government that I have laid out, in terms of apprenticeships at least, is, as I have said, the creation of an all-age careers service. With the measures that I have briefly outlined, I think that we could rejuvenate the apprenticeship system and increase dramatically the number of people engaged in apprenticeships, providing we get the basic skills and soft-skills issues right, so that we do not have 300,000 young people ill-equipped even to begin an apprenticeship. I agree with the Minister that that is partly about pre-apprenticeship training. However, I cannot see why the Government, even if they do not adopt all these things immediately, should not, given the time frame available to them, accept the amendment and be confident that they can grow the number of training places in the way that we all agree is necessary.

Perhaps the Minister will rise at this late stage, and suggest that he will accept the amendment with the alacrity with which he swapped places with the Minister for Schools and Learners and contributed to this debate. If he does not do so, I will have to test the mood of the Committee by dividing it on this subject.