Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
MP AND LORD
22 OCTOBER 2008
Q120 Mr. Timpson: The next
point is about reasonable travel areas. Who will define them and
will they be different for different age groups? For instance,
a 16-year-old would have a different reasonable travel area from
a 19-year-old. How will it be defined and who will be responsible
for doing that?
Jim Knight: In the end it is defined
in law. The concept of reasonableness is pretty familiar to us
as lawmakers. The Bill sets out that the guaranteed work is at
an appropriate level and within a reasonable travel area. How
the courts would interpret reasonableness in this case depends
upon the nature of the occupation. If you wanted to do space science
there would only be a few places where it was reasonable to study
that. If you want to do marine engineering then it is probably
reasonable that you will not get that in Birmingham, but you might
get it in Dorset. If you want to be an electrician or a plumber,
then it is reasonable to expect that you can do that in your backyard.
That familiar concept of reasonableness will be interpreted by
the NAS service in delivering the guarantee as to what they think
is reasonable, but ultimately the judgment would be made in the
Chairman: A reasonable answer?
Q121 Mr. Timpson: I was going
to go one step further and ask how much of a factor funding will
be in deciding whether it is reasonable.
Jim Knight: Funding is not covered
in clause 21(2). The apprenticeship place is there in respect
of two available sectors at the appropriate level. Obviously,
guidance will be issued about "the person's reasonable travel
area". Inevitably, funding will be in the background of judgments
of reasonableness when it ends up in the courts as well, but how
the guarantee works is set out pretty clearly. The Bill as drafted
does not refer to funding.
Q122 Annette Brooke: I want
to ask about diversity. You have touched slightly on that. The
Government acknowledge that there is a problem, and the YWCA has
exposed the gender pay gap in apprenticeships enormously, because
of the nature of apprenticeships into which girls are likely to
go. How significant is the problem?
Lord Young: There is a problem.
It is important that young women are engaged in apprenticeships.
It is important, too, that we tackle minority ethnic groups and
deal with disability. Eventually, apprentices are employees and
the employment relationship is governed by employment and equalities
legislation. The Bill does not tackle that, but that is not to
say we see it as something that we do not need to focus on. It
is not just a question of driving up apprenticeship numbers, but
of ensuring that we engage as wide a range of young people as
possible. But if you are talking about wage discrimination, the
Bill is not the vehicle to deal with it.
Q123 Annette Brooke: I am
not talking about wage discrimination. It is a fact that a plumber
is likely to earn more than a hairdresser. I am talking about
the actual entry.
Jim Knight: We talked about some
of the disparities in London. Some ethnic groups are less attracted
culturally to apprenticeships and they value them less than others.
We need to work with those groups to build the demand for apprenticeships.
We are looking explicitly at the gender pay gap as one of the
reasons behind the minimum apprenticeship wage. We are aware that
it would have more of an impact in the hairdressing sector and
the care sector than in others. As Tony rightly said, that is
in aspects of the work of the NAS and the two Departments. It
will not be in the Bill because it will be underpinned by other
legislation, such as the single equalities Bill and so on.
Q124 Annette Brooke: I wanted
to know a little more and I accept that, other than the careers
advice point under the Bill, it is not the right place to tackle
the issue, but there is clearly a lot more that needs to be done.
I attended the Dorset skills festival a fortnight ago. The girls
were around the health and beauty, and the boys were around the
bricklaying. What is the Government's overall agenda actually
to support what is going on in schools? We have had lots of initiatives,
but from what I witnessed at the skills festival, they have not
made much difference. Incidentally, one of the grammar schools
did not participate.
Jim Knight: I shall not get too
distracted by grammar schools now. The wider point about how we
tackle some of the gender stereotyping is important. It is as
much a challenge for GCSE and A-level choices and diplomas as
it is for apprenticeships. It is something that we must address
throughout schooling. When I went to school, boys did woodwork
and girls did home economics. We have moved on from that position,
but we could do much better. It is still the case that not enough
girls are doing physics. It will still be the case that when the
hair and beauty diploma starts next year, we are more likely to
see girls than boys choosing to do it. That is something that
we need to address through Key Stage 3 with a new, more flexible
curriculum and, as a result of that flexibility, some of the project-based
work that schools will develop to get people of both genders to
try different things. I am happy to say that, as I go around,
I see more cooking in schools. A lot of boys are really enjoying
cooking, and there are some positive role models. Gordon Ramsay
may not be the most positive in certain respects, but Jamie Oliver
and Rick Stein, as well as Delia Smith, are great television cooks.
They are highly professional, earn a lot of money, and are good
role models for guys. Perhaps boys could learn from some of the
highly paid hairdressers as well. They could get into and be very
successful at those professions.
Q125 Annette Brooke: It is
Josephine the plumber I am looking for.
Jim Knight: And Josephine the
plumber. We made sure in one of our documentsI cannot remember
which one. I was looking at World-class Apprenticeships,
but it was not that one, so it must have been one that the DCSF
published on its own when Alan Johnson was Secretary of State.
It may have been the one about raising the leaving age, which
had a picture of a girl rather than a guy in overalls working
on a motor car. We are looking at some of our images and the marketing
that we do. We are spending £8 million a year on marketing
apprenticeships over the next three years, and we will ensure
that there are positive images that address some of those gender
Q126 Chairman: Could the images
be supplemented with information about earnings?
Lord Young: Absolutely.
Q127 Chairman: What do you
earn in hairdressing compared with plumbing? What do you earn
as a nursery nurse compared with being a painter and decorator?
It seems to me that many young people going into a profession
are not told straight out how much they will earn, or how much
their lifetime earnings will be. I am absolutely in favour of
Jim having lots of pictures of girls in overalls, but I would
like young people to know very clearly, when they make their choice,
what their lifetime earnings will be. That information must get
to them. I am keen on earnings, as is everybody else, but those
poor benighted people do not seem to be able to get the information
that they need.
Lord Young: I just thought that
I should share with you a useful bit of information about an atypical
mentoring pilot starting next year to support non-traditional,
non-stereotypical apprentices. The NAS will be working with the
TUC and others to provide targeted mentoring of such groups. That
is one thing. The only other thing that I would say to you, Annette,
if you do not mind my being familiar
Chairman: Through the Chair, please.
Lord Young: Through you, Chairman.
The only other thing I would say is that you now see more young
women recognising the earning potential of being a plumber, a
bricklayer or a surveyor. The numbers are nowhere near enough,
but the message is beginning to get through, and they are thinking,
"I can do this." I have always said to my wife that
she is a damned sight better engineer than I am. She is much better
at many craft skills jobs.
Chairman: I think you mean better at
Lord Young: That goes without
saying, but certainly she is when it comes to craft skills. Attitudes
are changing, but too slowly, I think. The point that you make,
Chairman, about earnings potential is perhaps one that schools
ought to explore.
Jim Knight: I would just add that
the guidance on careers education that we are putting out will
stress the importance of challenging gender stereotyping. We are
also doing some work with sector skills councils in the same area.
It is work that we are taking seriously and trying to develop
Q128 Annette Brooke: May I
askvery briefly, because of the timewhy the Bill
makes no mention of young apprentices? Would not a programme for
14 to 16-year-olds with a combined college or school approach
be a useful add-on to what you are doing?
Jim Knight: I asked the same question,
and received an excellent answer. It roughly went along the lines
that young apprenticeships are not apprenticeships in that they
do not have to conform to the standard that we are setting out,
and they do not have the apprenticeship frameworks. They are a
different beast. However, we are looking to expand and develop
them. There are just over 9,000 young apprenticeships this year.
We are looking at 11,000 next year, 2,000 of which will be piloting
the development of young apprenticeships from within diplomas.
We see them as a real success story in dealing with young people
of middle and higher ability who see what occupation they want
to get into and are engaged by that form of learning. They are
going extremely well and we are keen to develop them, but we do
not need to legislate in order to develop and deepen them. They
are not apprenticeships. They are using the brand because they
are similar, but they are not the same in a number of different
aspects, and that is why they do not appear in the Bill.
Lord Young: Essentially, we do
not include them because they do not have the employment-based
connection. The young people might do a bit of work experience,
but there is not the same contract with an employer. It would
confuse the situation more. We cannot deny that there is a bit
of confusion anyway because of the shared brand name, but in a
young apprenticeship there is no contract of the sort that exists
between the employer and the young person in an actual apprenticeship.
They might do a bit of work experience, and the young apprenticeships
are certainly a good pre-entry means for young people to embark
on actual apprenticeships.
Q129 Chairman: We hear that
the resistance to 14 to 16-year-olds spending time on employers'
premises very often arises from concerns about health and safety.
Could you not use a clause in the Bill to give comfort to employers
who would like to take 14 to 16-year-olds into their workplace
but feel nervous about it? Although I understand the difference
between young apprenticeships and apprenticeships, there is that
continuing problem of nervousness on the part of employers about
having young people on their premises. Should there not be something
in the Bill to give them comfort in that regard?
Lord Young: As I am told by my
officials when we discuss this, we are in the pre-legislative
scrutiny stage. It is a draft Bill and the honest answer is that
we ought to examine that. I do not want to go any further than
that, but I understand your point.
Jim Knight: We can look at it.
We would have to look at what added value we would get by putting
a clause into legislation, what it would effect in law and whether
we can address the problem.
Q130 Chairman: Do you recognise
Jim Knight: Yes, we recognise
it and need to address it consistently and in the same way that
we are trying to address similar fears about learning outside
the classroom. We might be able to do that just as effectively
by non-legislative means as through legislation.
Q131 Mr. Chaytor: Can I pursue
the point about minimum entry requirements? The Bill is very specific
in requiring a Level 1 qualification for a Level 2 apprenticeship,
but do you feel that in certain industrial sectors that might
exclude some young people who could benefit from an apprenticeship?
Clause 21 defines the Level 1 qualification as five GCSEs. If
a youngster had four GCSEs, should they be disqualified from applying
for a Level 2 apprenticeship?
Jim Knight: I think that it is
right that we should set that floor that people have to achieve.
Someone might have four GCSEs and needs to retake a fifth and
is close to getting it; there could be some flexibility about
them starting some of the learning that they would do as part
of their apprenticeship while they do that retake, but they will
not be able to complete it until they have got their Level 1,
and I think that that is right. We need to be very clear about
the basic standard we need.
Q132 Mr. Chaytor: Why does
the Bill only define the level of qualification in terms of GCSEs
and not in terms of acquisition of the diploma, given that the
diploma will provide the basic structure of qualifications post-14?
Why are the levels defined purely in terms of GCSEs and why is
there no reference to a diploma?
Jim Knight: That reminds me of
some of the discussions we have had when I have taken other Bills
through Parliament. It is just a case of finding a qualification
with which everyone is familiar and which you can use for equivalence
purposes. The fact that we specify GCSEs does not mean that the
equivalent qualifications are any better or worse; it just means
that people are pretty familiar with the grading of GCSEs, so
the established qualification seems the clearest way of doing
Q133 Mr. Chaytor: But you
agree that there ought to be some flexibility over the rigid application
of Level 1 five GCSEs?
Jim Knight: It is absolutely the
case that one of the great benefits of diplomas as the bridge
between academic and vocational learning is that they are an extremely
useful way of discovering a path from academic learning into vocational
learning, quite possibly and probably through diploma-type learning.
Q134 Chairman: Minister, have
you had a word with NG Bailey? The chief executive of that company
gave evidence to the Skills Commission, which I co-chair, yesterday.
It is one of the largest construction engineering companies in
Britain, with one of the largest apprenticeship programmes in
the country. That firm is worried. It takes three A to Cs, interviews
everyone that applies and balances motivation and the determination
to succeed in an apprenticeship, because that is an important
part of the qualification. It would be worried that a requirement
to have five A to Cs, if that were too prescriptive, would hamper
its apprenticeship recruitment process.
Jim Knight: Certainly, it would
be important for him to understand that the five A* to C relates
to the entitlement; it does not regulate who can be taken on by
an employer. In terms of the delivery of the entitlement, which
is what clause 21 refers to, you get the entitlement once you
have your five A* to Cs. But if you have three and an employer
like NG Bailey wants to take you on, there is nothing in the Bill
to prevent that.
Chairman: Okay. We are now going to romp
through the relationship between apprenticeships and diplomas.
Graham is going to lead us.
Q135 Mr. Stuart: Jim, what
impact do you think the introduction of diplomas will have on
your hopes for apprenticeships?
Jim Knight: I think they will
help to deliver the expansion of apprenticeships that we want
to see over the next few years. We have the ambition, as you know,
to drive up completions. If we are going to deliver one in five
by 2020, we have to be able to get to 250,000 annual starts overall.
To do that, you need to get clearer, stronger pathways into apprenticeship,
given what we have been discussing about trying to sustain the
quality of the brand. That means that you want good prior attainment
going in. There will be people who, as they go into Key Stage
4, are clear in their minds that they are going to be more engaged
with a style of learning that has practical elements and is sector-based,
but do not yet know what occupation they want to do. So they can
then go on and do Level 1 or Level 2 diploma in a sector, without
having to pin their colours to an occupational mastif that
is not stretching things too muchand find a style of teaching
and learning that mixes the academic and vocational in an engaging
way. They then enjoy their learning and prosper. I do not know
if you have visited any places offering diploma learning, since
it started in September
Mr. Stuart: Not since you asked me yesterday
and I told you I had not.
Jim Knight: That's right; I had
forgotten that conversation. I visited Macclesfield College in
Northwich last week and saw some creative and media diploma students.
They were extremely excited by their learning. Such students are
motivated. At the end of Level 1 and Level 2, they may say, "Actually,
I now know, having studied the engineering diploma, that I want
to be a car mechanic, a civil engineer or a railway engineer,
so I will go on and do an apprenticeship in that area." Even
going on to do a Level 3 diploma, they may then realise that,
having achieved their Level 3 diploma in whatever sector, although
there are only four levels, those in turn may be routes into apprenticeships.
Q136 Mr. Stuart: That sounds
great, so why does the Bill block transfer between diplomas and
apprenticeships at certain levels?
Jim Knight: In what way does it
Q137 Mr. Stuart: Andy Powell
of the Edge foundation told us last week that moving from a Level
2 diploma to a Level 2 apprenticeship was blocked by the Bill.
Does that accord with what you know? British Chambers of Commerce
in its evidence referred to the need to get interoperability between
the two, and there are difficulties with that.
Jim Knight: Andy is a fine man,
and Edge does a wonderful job, but just occasionally I need to
go back and educate them. I think I had better brief them, but
as far as I am concerned, and as far as I am advised, there is
no block in the Bill.
Q138 Mr. Stuart: Nick Edwards
said, "Somebody who has done a Level 2 construction diploma"
for instance "could not transfer to a Level 3 construction
apprenticeshipthey would need to go back and do a Level
2 construction apprenticeship." Does he also not know what
he is talking about?
Jim Knight: Perhaps we need more
messaging about that, and to improve our communications. We shall
be spending quite a lot on communications about apprenticeships
over the next few years.
Chairman: Some people behind you are
finding this interesting,
Mr. Stuart: And scribbling very fast.
Lord Young: Your first point was
about general blocking, and we dealt with that. It was not true.
The point you are now making is a little more refined, and we
need to get the answer right.
Jim Knight: If we need to drop
you a line on this, I will be happy to do so to set the matter
out more clearly, but I would be extremely concerned if anything
in the draft legislation prevented people from moving between
diplomas and apprenticeships. If they are right, we must address
the matter; if they are not, we will advise the Committee.2
Q139 Mr. Stuart: Do you think
you have done enough thinking about the relationship between the
two, and understand how they will work as they go forward?
Jim Knight: Yes. We set out in
the qualifications strategy that we published earlier this year
the broad, three-pronged approach to qualifications underpinned
by the foundation learning tierthe three prongs that I
previously set out at length for the Committee of the traditional
academic line of GCSEs and A-levels and the traditional vocational
line of apprenticeships, and then the one that bridges the divide
between the two in the form of diplomas. We are looking through
the JACQA (Joint Advisory Committee of Qualifications and Approvals)
process for ways to fund qualifications and to be more consistent
in those three options so that employers, parents and learners
understand them. We are absolutely clear, and always have been,
thatif someone decides at 14 that they want to pursue a diploma,
they are allowed to change their mind. Trapping people from 14
to 19 into a decision that they made at 14 would be wrong.