Apprenticeships and Skills Policy — [Sir David Amess in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:49 pm on 8th January 2019.

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Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley 2:49 pm, 8th January 2019

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pointing that person out, and for the way in which he described them. It is fitting to include them in the debate.

It is important to get other people involved in providing work placements—it is not just something for politicians to provide. We need to encourage small businesses to become involved in that, so that people get a feel for the entrepreneurship that is involved in setting up and running a small business. There are a couple of examples of companies in my constituency that do that, such as Williams Jet Tenders, which makes boats to go on other boats. It has a scheme of taking 10 people from the most deprived area of the constituency each year, some of whom go on to do apprenticeships. That training provides them with a lot of experience, and also with a lot of fun, because they end their experience by building little boats that they race against each other. I have been along to present the prizes to the winners, and all of that might sound like great fun, but there is also a seriousness to the skills that they learn: how to make model boats, and how to scale them up from that. Other companies provide that experience as well, including a cabinet and kitchen maker that I have also visited.

Those work placements take a whole lot of learning away from the apprenticeships. I am principally going to mention three areas of learning, the first of which is working well with other people. That may sound obvious, but for young people, working with other people and dealing with the dynamics of that is a skill that needs to be learned. Another skill that is crucial to learn and which work placements can provide is how to cope with criticism. Of course, coping with criticism is something that we as politicians take for granted, so maybe the work placements in our offices do have a purpose, but that is an important thing for people to learn. The third thing is people managing their own time, and making sure that that is part of how they approach life. Those are three examples of skills that work placements can provide, which will take away the need to pick up on those areas of learning during apprenticeships and will also help to make apprenticeships more attractive.

Having dealt with the work placement side, let me turn briefly to the schools side. Schools need to participate. We have been only partially successful in encouraging schools to encourage people to go into apprenticeships and skills training rather than to university. Certainly, among the schools in my constituency, there is a huge variety of attitudes towards encouraging students to go into apprenticeships. Some still have a very old-fashioned view of life and only measure success by the number they send to university.