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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

Of course, an apprenticeship is a job. We want to ensure it stands out on any CV as a gold standard, lasting that apprentice throughout their career, whichever employer they go to in the future. Longevity within companies is important. I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss how we can better foster the retention of apprentices. Our data to date is extremely promising.

To ensure that apprentices receive a high-quality training, we have strengthened the register of apprenticeship training providers. Any provider that receives an inadequate Ofsted assessment for apprenticeships will be removed altogether from the register. We realise that we must go further to ensure that these opportunities are accessible to people from all backgrounds, whether they are starting a job or progressing in their career.

Small and medium-sized enterprises, most of which do not pay the apprenticeship levy, are integral to our economy, as was mentioned. Alan Brown mentioned Government procurement. That is an essential issue. In the December 2019 Conservative party manifesto, we committed to a significant number of apprenticeships in every big infrastructure project that this Government undertake. In the next year, thousands of smaller employers will transition to the apprenticeship service, giving them more control over their apprenticeship needs.

We are listening to the concerns of businesses, including SMEs, about the apprenticeship levy, and we are committed to ensuring that the apprenticeship programme continues to provide opportunities for people of all backgrounds, fulfil the needs of employers of all sizes and deliver for the economy more broadly. I thank the hon. Member for Slough for highlighting apprenticeships in this debate and encouraging further focus on SMEs as we continue to improve the apprenticeship system. I assure him that we will continue to listen to all stakeholders, including SMEs, to ensure that the apprenticeship system works for everyone.