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Apprenticeships: SMEs — [Philip Davies in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:20 pm on 13th February 2020.

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Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, Minister of State (Education) 2:20 pm, 13th February 2020

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comment. IfATE does evaluate the cost of putting on each apprenticeship scheme, and I regularly meet its representatives. In fact, I met them this week. I know that it is their priority for this year to look at the budgets that they set per standard.

Emma Hardy mentioned the question of money, and whether we had originally anticipated that all businesses would use all of the fund. We do not and did not anticipate that all businesses that paid the levy would need or want to use all the money; but we have put them in the driving seat to ensure that it works for them and their individual business model. We have been pleased to see the number of businesses that have transferred some of their unspent money to support smaller businesses within their supply chain.

The apprenticeship levy means that more money is available than ever—a big point to labour. This year we have increased available investment in apprenticeships to more than £2.5 billion—double what was spent in 2010-11 in cash terms. Our reforms mean that apprentices starting apprenticeships today benefit from apprenticeships that are of higher quality. Apprentices now receive substantial and sustained training, with their apprenticeships lasting a minimum of 12 months and featuring 20% off-the-job training and an assessment at the end.

We are pleased that the new apprenticeship standards across all levels are being designed and driven with industry, because they have to work for the employers. In fact, starts on standards represented more than 63% of all starts reported in 2018-19, showing that employers are already making the switch.

Quality is key. Today we have talked a lot about quantity and access, but we did not labour the point about quality. That is a priority of the Government, and has to be a priority for the businesses that the apprentices feed.