UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 1082-ii
HOUSE OF COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
TAKEN BEFORE THE
CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES COMMITTEE
DRAFT APPRENTICESHIPS BILL
JIM KNIGHT and LORD YOUNG OF NORWOOD GREEN
Evidence heard in Public
Questions 66 - 167
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Taken before the Children, Schools and Families Committee
on Wednesday 22 October 2008
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Chairman)
Mr. David Chaytor
Mr. John Heppell
Mrs. Sharon Hodgson
Mr. Andrew Pelling
Mr. Andy Slaughter
Mr. Graham Stuart
Mr. Edward Timpson
Examination of Witnesses
MP, Minister of State for Schools and Learners,
Department for Children, Schools and Families, and Lord Young of Norwood
Green, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills and
Apprenticeships, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, gave
Q66 Chairman: May I welcome
the right honourable Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, and Lord Young, the new
Minister from the House of Lords? We are very pleased to have you in front of our
Committee. We are looking briefly in this pre-legislative inquiry into the new
Apprenticeships Bill. We agreed with the Innovation, Universities, Science and
Skills Committee that we would do this pre-legislative inquiry jointly. We are
holding two sessions, of which this is the second. The Department for
Innovation, Universities and Skills is working closely with us; it is the lead
First, Minister, because a lot of
young people out there are worrying about their education maintenance allowance,
and whether and when they will be paid, before we get started on
apprenticeships, would you say something about the progress of paying people
Sure. Obviously, I would like to underscore what I said to the Committee before
about how regrettable the situation is, and we will continue to update you by
letter as well, as we have been doing. There are essentially three aspects to
the processing that I have been reporting to you on. In terms of processing the
applications, you will recall that-I think that it was at oral questions last
week, when many of you were away-I reported that the backlog was around
111,000. It is now below 50,000. That is making good progress. Once those are
processed, notices of entitlement are issued to learners, stimulating payment
through the learning providers. These notices are going out but there is still
an issue about whether they are going out fast enough. We are chasing that up
and making progress. The number of notices of entitlement issued as of 20
October is 389,196 and there are 237,392 young people who have received
payment. There is a gap there which we are trying to reduce rapidly. The
challenge is for the colleges to process those notices of entitlement into the
system. That involves, for example, putting in all the attendance information
for six weeks and that can clearly take a little time. That is in essence the
answer to the backlog.
The other aspect that we have been
reporting on is helpline volumes. They have improved, although they could still
be better. They are now at a level where a reasonable service is offered. It is
not as good as I would like, but it is reasonable.
Q67Chairman: Thank you. Will
the Department be looking at the way that it awards contracts, given the ETS saga
this summer? There is now a problem with this particular company delivering the
results on time, which we expected to be a lot sharper and quicker than this.
Are we going to look at the procurement process?
Certainly. Some time ago I agreed with David Bell, the permanent secretary,
that we should be looking widely, as you say, at some of the procurement and
contract management arrangements to see if there are lessons to be learned
across the events of the summer. We need to be informed by Lord Sutherland's
findings when he reports later this year because there may be broader lessons
to be learned than just the issues around standard assessment tests. We can
also translate the internal work that we are doing on lessons learned. I met
staff from the Learning and Skills Council yesterday and they are also doing a
lessons-learned exercise in respect of the processing of education maintenance
Q68Paul Holmes: On another aspect of the issue, the
whole point of the EMAs-and they have been very successful-is to get children
from poor backgrounds to stay on. I have anecdotally heard of examples in my
constituency of Chesterfield
of kids who dropped out in September because the EMA was delayed. I have heard
that some colleges and schools have used their money temporarily to tide
students over. What advice or support have you and the LSC given to schools and
colleges about providing that sort of interim help?
We have been saying consistently to providers-schools, colleges and others-and
reinforced in a letter that I sent at the beginning of last week, that we
provide substantial amounts, millions of pounds, of hardship funds to providers
and we expect providers to use them to provide some payment to young people who
would otherwise be at risk of dropping out because they are still waiting for
their EMAs. When they arrive the EMAs will be backdated to when term started
and we have extended the deadline for applications to the end of October. We
have reinforced and keep pressing that problem.
I am pleased that the number of
applications for EMAs is just above what it was at this point last year.
Overall, we are not seeing an impact on numbers applying. You could perhaps
attribute that slight growth to the amount of publicity that we have
inadvertently managed to attract to EMAs. It is extremely regrettable if any
individual has felt the need to drop out because they have not had an EMA but
in global terms I am confident that it has not put people off.
Q69 Paul Holmes: Have you any feel for how widespread the
temporary support being provided in schools and colleges is?
It helped that we reinforced that message last week, because we were getting
some feedback from some colleges through the Association of Colleges. A few
colleagues in Parliament have also raised with me the fact that colleges in
their area are concerned about this. That is one of the reasons why I wanted to
get that letter out, so that people were reassured that they should use their
hardship fund. If, in turn, they were concerned about whether they had
sufficient resources in the fund, they were told that they should go to the
Learning and Skills Council and discuss what is effectively a cash-flow issue
for them, while awaiting the back payment.
Q70 Paul Holmes: What about schools, post-16? They do not
have hardship funds in the same way.
It would apply through the local authority, in that case.
Q71 Chairman: Thank you,
Minister. Anything more on that? Let us get on with the apprenticeships.
Lord Young, I have not welcomed you
yet. How long have you been in your post?
I am in my third week.
Q72 Chairman: Your third
Yes, I bring you the vast experience of three weeks.
Q73 Chairman: But you do have
vast experience; we have never had a Skills Minister who has served an
apprenticeship. Did you serve an apprenticeship?
I did indeed.
Chairman: Well then, you
are very welcome-you will know something about the subject in a different way.
It was one or two years ago.
Q74 Chairman: I am sure Jim
knows a lot about it. You are trade union-backed and you have kept in touch
with that. Could you give us a micro-bio of your career?
I started as a telecom apprentice when I was 16, in a grand organisation called
the GPO. We had not even advanced to BT status in those days. It was a two-year
apprenticeship. I got involved in trade union activities in the mid-'60s as a
shop steward and eventually became elected general secretary of what was the
National Communications Union in 1989. We merged with the postal workers in
1995, where my partner in crime, as I sometimes refer to him, was Alan Johnson,
now Secretary of State for Health. That is a very potted biography.
Q75 Chairman: That is
excellent. It gives Members of the Committee a good introduction. Let us get on
with apprenticeships. Minister, why is the Bill before the House? What is its
purpose? I do not ask that in a silly way, but there are a lot of people who
ask whether we really need legislation in this area.
I think we do need legislation. We need to put in place a more focused delivery
body in the National Apprenticeship Service. We need to put in place an
apprenticeship guarantee, so that we can create some leverage over the
providers, particularly the Learning and Skills Council and its successor body,
to ensure that every young person, regardless of where they are and their
circumstances, can identify two sectors where they would be interested in
pursuing an apprenticeship and then be able to take that forward.
We need a coherent and consistent
framework that sets out what would be in each apprenticeship. Technically, it
is probably not a framework; we tend to refer to them as blueprints. We need to
have that blueprint for all the apprenticeships and then the sector skills
councils, and others, can deliver frameworks based on that blueprint. It is
right that we set that out in legislation and obviously ensure that young
people are getting the right information, advice and guidance about
apprenticeships and that, up to the age of 16, regardless of their setting,
they are being given advice that includes apprenticeships as they make their
decisions as to how they will carry on their learning.
I think that most of it has been encompassed by the Minister. The only other
thing I would say is, given the importance we now attach to this in our
contribution to developing the skill base, following the Leitch report and
other publications on world-class apprenticeships, there is also a symbolic
importance of embedding this in legislation. So it has a practical function,
but it also signals the importance that we attach to what we are trying to achieve
in apprenticeships up to the year 2020.
Describe the perfect apprenticeship for me. What are the essential ingredients
of a good apprenticeship?
The essential ingredients would be that the learner has the theoretical
knowledge, combined with practical skill and key skills such as literacy and
numeracy, and a good understanding of the industry in which the learner is
working and wants to continue working in.
Those are the four core elements in every apprenticeship. Obviously, the ideal apprenticeship would have
been developed by employers to suit their individual needs, for the individual
occupations that they want to bring people into through this form of training.
Q77 Chairman: So there are
some apprenticeships that would involve employer engagement and some that would
Well, if you are referring to the debate about programme-led apprenticeships-
Q78 Chairman: I was referring
to your description. As you described
it, it looks as though the employment bit was an optional extra.
No, we are being very clear that you have to be in employment in order to be
doing an apprenticeship.
Q79 Chairman: Okay. So, all apprenticeships should have a
positive link with an employer.
Q80 Chairman: Okay. Lord Young, with your background, you would
be familiar with the kind of people that I am familiar with in my part of
Yorkshire, who do an engineering apprenticeship-a two, three or four-year
apprenticeship, which is very rigorous.
When those people qualify, they are normally hotly competed for by
employers. Are you familiar with that?
Very much so. Yes. You raise an important point when you talk
about how we define the apprenticeship, because of the contract with the
employer-we will not count them unless at the completion of their
apprenticeship they have a contract with an employer. There will be no dubiety about the number of
people in an apprenticeship programme-we are quite clear about that.
Q81 Chairman: Let me continue
my understanding of a good apprenticeship.
The good apprenticeship is with an employer; it is pretty rigorous
training. What is the shortest time in
which you can do an apprenticeship in this country, Minister?
That depends. Given that an
apprenticeship is a bringing together of other qualifications or modules of
qualifications, you may have already completed some of the qualifications
necessary to qualify as an apprentice prior to starting your apprenticeship
training formally, in which case you would be able to go through that training
more quickly than if you had to accumulate the whole thing. Clearly, having that experience in the
workplace is the fundamental thing that we have been talking about. So, you are going to need to spend a
reasonable period of time doing that in order to be able to qualify. That will be the thing that makes the
Q82 Chairman: So, what is the
shortest time in which you can qualify as an apprentice in any sector if
leaving school at 16?
One thing that we should think about, with where they start from, is that we
are talking about being employer-led, although there are blueprints, so there
is going to be some variation. I would
need to consult. Two years comes to
mind, but whether it is possible to achieve something in less than that, I
would need to check.
Q83 Chairman: What does Jim
I would really struggle to be persuaded that anyone could do it in less than a
year. There may be circumstances in
which you could do it in less than two years, if you have sufficient-
Q84 Chairman: There are some
figures floating around that say that the average length of an apprenticeship
is a year.
Obviously, we can let the Committee know if our understanding is different from
some of the reality, but in terms of getting that practical experience and work
experience, so much depends on what you have been doing before going into the
apprenticeship. In simple terms, I would
say that if you are doing less than a year, getting that detailed understanding
is something that we would struggle with.
Chairman: You have been passed a note, Lord Young.
Can we compromise on 18 months? The apprenticeship
you quoted, the engineering-type apprenticeship, is one end of a scale. There is a rich variety here. If in this country we want to drive up
apprenticeships, they have to be related to employer demand-to their
needs-within these blueprints, which determine the criteria of quality. At one end will be highly complex
engineering, while at the other end there will be completely different types of
Q85 Chairman: Have you heard
Yes. It is about the amount of work
expanding to fill the time available.
Q86 Chairman: Well, the Gresham's law I know about
is when someone adulterates the currency by melting it down and adding
something. Is that not a problem with
apprenticeships? You have not mentioned
the families of children who might go into apprenticeships. Surely, when we want to sell them the new
expanded apprenticeship programme, which is going to get bigger, they should
have some guarantee of quality at the heart of it?
That is where the blueprint comes into it, along with the frameworks that are
agreed in consultation with employers, the Sector Skills Council, and, at the
moment, the Learning and Skills Council, which is going to change. If you are talking about ensuring that we do
not have adulterated apprenticeships, I believe that we have quality controls.
Q87 Chairman: But in
modern-speak, we could talk about brands.
We might have a brand that at one end is a gold-plated and wonderful
formal apprenticeship, and at the other end is something in retail and
distribution that takes six months.
It would be more than that.
Q88 Chairman: More than six
months? So you cannot do any training
that would grant you an apprenticeship in six months?
Well, if you do not mind me saying so, Chairman, you have one vision of an
apprenticeship. I remember this same
debate taking place in British Telecom, where there was an argument about
whether there should be a two-year or a three-year apprenticeship. When we moved to a three-year apprenticeship,
we were working for most of the time in that third year. I do not think that it is the length of time
that is important, but what is required in order to learn the vocational skills
and all the other components that we talk about, such as acquiring reasonable
qualifications and so on. What are the
requirements? We are saying probably a
figure of about 18 months, my officials are telling me. I would not get hung up on saying that if it
is longer that must mean better.
Q89 Chairman: I never said
that. What I believe and what most
people believe is that there should be a minimum guarantee of quality-that is
what I am trying to tease out.
Clearly, quality is absolutely essential, and we have to secure the esteem with
which this brand-to use your word-is held by the public. People do value
apprenticeships very much, but in the end the quality is measured by the
employers themselves and it is the employers who are designing the 180-odd
apprenticeship frameworks that we have in place, either directly or through the
Sector Skills Council. It is for the
employer, while meeting our standard, which we have set at quite a high level
around the four things that I set out for you earlier, to design things and
look at what qualifications will meet their quality standards. You have to bear it in mind that
apprenticeships are at level 2, level 3 and level 4, so there will be
differences between the various levels, quite rightly. That is why it is quite difficult for us to
come up with a time, because you have to account for prior attainment,
different levels and different settings.
So to come up with a magic figure for the amount of time that it takes
in order to ensure quality is quite difficult.
Q90 Chairman: Okay. Lord Young, would you not say that many
people in this country believe that an apprenticeship trains someone with a
skill to do something useful and gets them into a good way of employment?
Q91 Chairman: At reasonable
Is it not something of a confidence trick if you get the parents and a young
person to believe in going into an apprenticeship in retail and distribution,
for example, when some of our wealthiest, biggest and most successful retailers
pay on average £11,500 a year? Does it
seem worth doing an apprenticeship if you end up in that situation?
I think that is a really interesting argument.
The answer is yes, in my opinion.
Q93 Chairman: Could you live
on £11,500 a year?
I would not want to live on that. Of
course I would like to drive up pay.
Q94 Chairman: Many of my
constituents have no chance of a decent life because that is all they can earn,
even if they take an apprenticeship and work for one of our leading companies.
I could not live on £11,500, and I do not think that you could.
I agree that I would find it a challenge.
Are we then saying that we would not recommend that somebody go into
that particular industry? I would
recommend that, despite the point you make.
If we do not train people in that industry, their chances of progressing
anywhere are even more limited. We are
talking about creating life chances for people, so notwithstanding the
difficulties of the wages earned in that industry, we must ask, "Do we enhance
their life chances and their skills, and do we make them more socially mobile
by putting them through an apprenticeship?"
The answer is emphatically yes.
Q95 Chairman: That is exactly
what I wanted you to tell me. In the
argument made by the Minister for Schools and Learners it is essential that
there is an element of progression. I
can see progression in many of the apprenticeship schemes, not just the
Whether it is hairdressing or retail.
Q96 Chairman: Yes, but what
the Bill gets to the heart of, and something that I must ask you in searching
terms, is whether there is a problem in that at one end of the apprenticeship
market you tend to devalue the currency because the package is not strong
enough and the security of employment and the payment at the end are not
We made an important announcement that we were raising the minimum wage, and
from next August the minimum apprenticeship wage will go up from £80 to £95 a
week. Obviously, £95 a week is still a
long way off £11,500 a year, but it is important that we seek to push up that
wage in the same way that we have the national minimum wage and the tax
credit. We absolutely agree with where
you are coming from.
However, in terms of increasing
opportunities for people, they are raising their general skill level even by
working in a low-paid industry such as retail or hairdressing, which is a very
popular apprenticeship for women. There
is a gender issue that informed our reasons for wanting to raise the minimum
apprenticeship wage. When I go round
colleges talking to people on apprenticeships, such as some women doing
hairdressing apprenticeships in Brighton last
month, I find that many of them want to run their own business. They need to acquire the necessary
hairdressing skills, so they do a level 2 apprenticeship and then advance those
skills through a level 3 apprenticeship, which includes some of the skills that
they need to run a business as well as those required to cut hair and do other
things that I do not understand because I do not have much hair. That is their ambition, and that will be
New Look, the fashion retailer, is
based in my constituency. There is
progression in that industry, either towards running your own retail business
or up through the company. A member of
my family started on the shop floor of Boots, doing temporary Christmas work,
and worked her way up to be a well-paid HR professional in retail.
There is progression in those
industries, but only on the basis of skill, and that is why it is important to
enhance skills through apprenticeships.
Chairman: Minister, I
understand what you say, but the background of the social structure of our
country is changing. Anyone who saw the
recent "Newsnight" item on Detroit
will know that we face a great challenge as well-paid manufacturing jobs
disappear and are replaced by jobs in distribution and retail which usually pay
minimum wage-plus. That is a challenge
to the whole concept of what you are trying to achieve through the
Apprenticeships Bill, but I have had enough of berating you about that. Let me bring in John.
Q97 Mr. Heppell: My apologies-I have to leave early so
the Chairman has allowed me to get in early.
As someone who went through a five-year, time-served, indentured
apprenticeship, I think that I have a little experience in these matters, and
your explanation of what a good apprenticeship should be is probably as good as
I have ever heard, but may I play devil's advocate for a minute? My view is
that people who acquire apprenticeships will have greater opportunities in
life. I know how much an apprenticeship
has helped me-it has been a bedrock throughout my life. You know that you always have something
behind you, and that gives you a sense of security, but people ask, "What is
actually going to be in the Bill?" I
hear what you say about it being symbolic, but if that is all it is, something
is wrong. What is it that you can do
with the Bill that you cannot do without it?
For me, the most important thing is the apprenticeship guarantee. It is really important that we put in place a
driver. I do not know whether you have
taken evidence from the Learning and Skills Council about the guarantee, but
the LSC is not that comfortable, in many ways, with the duty that is being
placed on it, because it will be really tough.
However, it is an absolute driver on the LSC that the guarantee will be
in place by 2013. If we are to achieve
our ambition of one in five young people being in an apprenticeship by 2020, we
will have to get that guarantee in place.
In the same way, we can put duties on the LSC in respect of
diplomas-there are other examples of the way in which duties on public
authorities work. In the end, however,
the LSC can be taken to court by a young person if it has not delivered on its duty. In terms of creating system change-raising
the participation age will create system change by engaging every young
person-that is crucial. That is the most
important thing. Specifying standards so
that the frameworks reflect that is important, and that is a good reason to
legislate, but if you wanted the main thing, I would say that it was the
Chairman: Lord Young?
I was going to say the entitlement plus the standards. The Chair pointed out that we need to know
precisely what we mean by an apprenticeship, and we do not want to see the
currency devalued. The entitlement, plus
defining exactly what we mean by an apprenticeship and what it will give you
are important. We all understand the
need to drive up the number of apprenticeships if we want to meet the challenges
set out in the Leitch report. If we
really want to give young people-those who might choose a less academic route
initially-a chance to progress in their lives, we need something like the
Mr. Heppell: I am not quite sure whether it was my
question or the Minister's answer, but we have managed to empty the back of the
Chairman: I was warned
that a group of young people were coming briefly to look at our Committee-it is
nothing do with the Minister.
Q98 Mr. Heppell: What is the Bill actually going to
do? There has always been a demand for
apprenticeships from young people. People have always wanted to go into them,
and there has never been a time when they have not been a popular choice-they
certainly were when I was a young lad, and I suspect that they are now. The real problem at the moment is that there
is clearly not enough demand from employers.
When I was young, as I have said before, it was very much the public
sector and the nationalised industries-big companies-that offered the
apprenticeships. The effects of that
flowed into the rest of the country, and the smaller firms picked up the
skilled people from those companies.
What in the Bill will induce employers to take on more apprentices?
It would not just be a Bill that did that.
We have a number of strategies, including champions and apprenticeship
ambassadors. We have the national
apprenticeship vacancy matching service, the idea being that we will simplify
the process of taking on apprentices for employers. I do not think that legislation of itself
will do that, but we nevertheless see it as fundamental in enshrining rights
You said that apprenticeships are
popular, but we have two problems in terms of hearts and minds. One is convincing employers that
apprenticeships are worth their while and that they do add value. The apprenticeship image needs to be enhanced
for young people as well. When I asked
my 18-year-old son why he did not choose the vocational route rather than
university, he answered, "Oh, you are sort of second class. That is for the guys who can't hack it." That is a totally wrong perspective. We have a job to do with young people's
perception of apprenticeships and with employers' understanding of why it is
important to the success of their business.
The demand side is weak in some parts of the country. There is not an apprenticeship culture in London and the south-east,
for example. We need to build on that
and get it up to the strength of demand and the culture around apprenticeships
that we might have in the north-west.
More work needs to be done.
Measures in the Bill help to achieve that, such as clause 23 on
information, advice and guidance to young people. Clause 22 covers the national apprenticeship
vacancy matching service, which will work on both supply and demand, while
clause 21, which is crucial, is on securing sufficient apprenticeship places to
meet the guarantee.
You are right that the big focus needs
to be on supply, particularly as we go into more difficult economic times. We need to do more, especially in the public
sector. It needs to increase by half as
much again to match the levels of private sector apprenticeships. We have an event on the 27th of this month
when ministerial champions from each Department responsible for developing
apprenticeships within the sectors for which they are accountable will come
together with others to work through how to deliver significant growth in
public sector apprenticeships. Clause 21
is important in that respect, as are the opportunities for sector skills
councils and employers to bring forward frameworks in an easier, more coherent
way under clauses 7 to 10. Stimulating
strong supply and demand are necessary, and that is why we want to legislate.
Q99 Mr. Heppell: Lord Young said, "We will not validate
something as an apprenticeship if, in the end, they are not in
employment." That worried me a bit,
because it almost suggested that people could go through a lot of training and
then get a job a week or so before it was time for their pension. I want to be reassured. The beauty of apprenticeship for me was that
people got both the theory and the practice, but it was understanding how they
meshed them together that was important.
For my apprenticeship, I did a year's
block release at college and went to work in the holidays. To be honest, the theory was great but it was
never relevant until I was actually on the job and could do as much as I liked
on the hydraulics. We opened up an
Anderson Boyes coal cutter, looked inside it and the pipes did not mean a
thing. We had to know how to match the
theoretical work with the practical work.
People need to be in work when they are in an apprenticeship. I want reassurance that it will not be a case
of people attending a training school before getting a job.
There has to be proper workplace experience, too. There will be a contract with an
employer. I was trying to distinguish it
from programme-led apprenticeships where there is not necessarily a contract
with an employer. It is not just a
Clause 16 through to clause 20 of the Bill defines the apprenticeship agreement
as a contract between the learner and the employer.
Q100 Mr. Pelling: I want to follow up John's question and
Lord Young's earlier comment. As for
producing quality of apprenticeship, surely the kudos will really come when
people feel confident that their earning power will be significantly improved
by the apprenticeship. What will the
Government be able to tell people about the prospects for improved earning
power if you secure the step change in the quality of apprenticeships?
There is an easy answer to that. If people
receive little or no training, their potential earning power is severely
reduced. With an apprenticeship, they
will get a guaranteed accredited qualification. They will get a quality
experience both in what they learn while getting their technical qualification
and in their work-based training, which John rightly emphasised. It has to
enhance their potential earning power and their career fulfilment. People can
unfortunately be described as a mere shelf-stacker, implying that they have no
skills whatsoever. That has been limited to a tiny, narrow, experience and we
are trying to lift people out of that description. That is why apprenticeships
are important, not just across the areas that John described and the heavy
engineering end that our Chairman described, but right throughout industry.
It is fundamental to each one of the 180 apprenticeship frameworks that they
can each tell a story. If you complete the apprenticeship successfully, and
apprenticeship completions are up significantly over the past few years, that
will improve your life chances, earning potential and so on. The Training and
Development Agency is an example that will be of interest to this Committee. It
has developed and renewed the apprenticeship framework for teaching assistants.
I am keen to see an expansion of apprentice teaching assistants in our schools.
We need to be able to tell the story of how that will in turn deliver work that
is satisfying in every sense, including payment. We are setting up the support
staff negotiating body. That will be part of telling that story. Obviously you
have the opportunities, once you are trained and employed as a teaching
assistant, to progress as a higher-level teaching assistant. We are developing
those support staff roles on and on. That is a story that we can tell as we try
to encourage people into that apprenticeship.
Q101 Chairman: A teaching
assistant can become a teacher, eventually.
Yes. I am sure that many of us know examples in our constituencies of
individuals who have perhaps started by volunteering in schools, become a
teaching assistant, continued training, done an OU course, got the degree and
then gone into the graduate teacher training programme and become a teacher.
Chairman: That is proper
Q102 Mr. Slaughter: Can I carry on a little bit about the
employer side of the matter? I do not know about my colleagues, but I am not
sure that I am persuaded by your answers so far. You rightly said that the
Government's record is very good so far-since the Labour Government came into
office, the numbers of starts and finishes of apprenticeship schemes have
tripled-but is it not getting more difficult now to ensure that employer places
are there? I cannot see much in the Bill that will do that. The Bill seems almost-John
used the phrase-symbolic. It is almost as though the Government are drawing
attention to what they have done so far and saying that they wish they could do
more, and that that put the resources in and tried to make it attractive to
young people. But if there is not a commitment by a substantial number of large
and medium-sized employers to do this, will it not fail?
I urge you to read clause 21, which is a long clause-it goes on for a couple of
pages. It is principally about the duties of the LSC. To deliver on the
guarantee set out in clause 3(e), the LSC will have to work extremely hard on
engaging employers. To be able to do this it is, for example, expanding its
current field force of 230 people to 400 staff, going out and working with
skills brokers who have that day-to-day contact with employers to encourage
them to take on apprenticeships.
We have some specific work going on at
the moment with ConstructionSkills, the sector skills council for construction.
Obviously with the decline in house building at the moment there is a
particular issue there. We have managed to grow to over 20,000 apprenticeship
starts in construction and we have aspirations to go much further, but we have
to be able to work quite closely with them as the economy changes, to ensure
that we can continue to fulfil those. Public sector construction will play
quite an important part in that. For example, this autumn we are acting to
specify the provision of apprenticeship places as part of constructors'
obligations in getting involved in Building Schools for the Future; and on 27
October, the use of procurement will form part of our discussions with our
ministerial colleagues on how the public sector can do its bit in apprenticeships.
In essence, the LSC will have to
deepen the use of existing apprenticeship agreements. It will have to look at other sectors and
parts of the country where there is not a strong tradition of apprenticeships
and then forge strong relationships with employers and employer groups, to get
them to see the value of getting entrants into their industries, particularly
when times are tough economically. We
can successfully ride out the economic circumstances only on the basis of
skills. We share with the CBI and other employer organisations the strong
message that now is the wrong time to stop investing in training and skills for
the work force. Obviously, we also saw
the announcements that John Denham and others made yesterday about trying to
help small and medium-sized businesses by using some of the Train to Gain money
to achieve that.
You are right to emphasise the size of the task. For a start, there is a battle for hearts and
minds with small and medium-sized enterprises.
I have been going out and meeting groups from SMEs that are signing up
to the skills pledge, and we have had the 100,000th company sign up to Train to
Gain, so interest is increasing, but it will be a difficult time.
What do we seek to do? Well, we seek to remove obstacles. Is engaging apprentices now complex and
difficult? Yes, it is difficult for an
employer, so we want to remove the obstacles.
The national apprenticeship service will provide a single point of
advice and guidance for employers interested in apprenticeships. We will soon be rolling out the first trials
of the vacancy matching service, so that employers can register their vacancies
and those seeking apprenticeships can find them.
It is also important to ensure that employers
feel that those apprenticeships are relevant to their industry or
occupation. The programme has to be
demand-led, so we are working with the sector skills councils so that they can
help to design the frameworks. They
cannot just design any old framework, however; it has to meet the criteria
defined in the blueprint.
To sum up, one part of this is about
removing obstacles to make it easier for employers to engage apprentices. The other part is winning the battle for
hearts and minds in the way the Minister just described. Employers have to believe that having better
skilled staff will prepare them to survive the challenges they are going
through and to come out of this situation with a stronger company.
Q103 Mr. Slaughter: Is not the problem that you are
relying extensively on persuasion and on trying to convince people that
something is in their interests? I am
interested in what you said about procurement as a route, but are you not
trying to push water uphill, in the sense that the whole organisation of the
employment sector and the economic circumstances are going the other way? A generation or two ago there were large
organisations, in both the public and the private sector, that were almost
hardwired to provide apprenticeships.
That was the case in central and local government, nationalised
industries and big firms, but we no longer have that.
We are also possibly in an economic
downturn in which there will be opportunities to come. My experience of local government, going back
20 years, was that we would take over something that had been privatised and
where all the apprenticeships had gone, renationalise it and bring the
apprenticeships back, and now it has been privatised again and they have all
gone again. You can try to hold the
waters back, but the general trend is towards cutting costs, whether by Gershon
in central Government or elsewhere, but is not the net effect that
apprenticeships are some of the first things that go, and all of the good will
expressed here will not change that?
Chairman: We do not have
time for both Ministers to answer each question.
I cannot pretend that it is going to get easier, because of the economic
circumstances. I discussed that yesterday with the LSC's chair and chief
executive and others. I have asked them to do a piece of work about it-crystal
ball gazing really, because it is very difficult to predict exactly what is
going to happen in the future. More difficult economic circumstances will, in
some ways, create a driver for young people to want to acquire more skills. It
is not going to be as straightforward for them to go and get other work with
lower levels of skills, so the demand may increase, but it is going make supply
more difficult. That is why it is really important that the public sector steps
up to the plate. John Denham has an apprentice working in his private office.
So have I.
So has Tony. Even at that simple level, there is more that we can do. If I
could get an apprentice teaching assistant in every school-a slightly ambitious
aspiration-that would be 23,000 apprenticeships. There is a lot more that we
can do across the public sector. At the moment, we are talking a lot about what
the public sector is doing, as we take over a few of the things that the private
sector gets up to. It is important that we drive this forward.
We have set up a structure at
permanent secretary level-led by Ian Watmore, the permanent secretary at
DIUS-with ministerial champions in every Department to drive it forward. The
Ministry of Defence has a very strong tradition in this area, and we need to
learn from those that are doing well.
Obviously, we must work with the private sector as well, and we have
some employers that are hugely committed to this-organisations such as BT and
Rolls Royce-but we need to deepen and widen it into other sectors, perhaps with
the public sector taking a lead. We also need to listen to voices such as the
CBI, which is very strong on this.
Q104 Mr. Slaughter: Do you see part of the problem as being
work force mobility? Again, when you go back a generation, an employer who was
prepared to put the investment into an apprentice, might expect-although
obviously the apprentice would not be indentured for life-that that investment
would be repaid. That is no longer the case, for a number of reasons. Is there
anything in the Bill that can deal with that issue?
There is nothing in the Bill that deals with that specifically, beyond what is
in the clauses around the apprenticeship frameworks, which are really designed
to make it easier for sector skills councils. It is important that it be done
sector-by-sector. There are employers who are working discretely themselves,
and they have the confidence to be able to do it and to take the risks around
As we have also seen with Investors in
People, if you can get a group of employers locally-we have training
associations that are also looking to set up together at the smaller end of the
employer range-they are not taking a risk on their own. They are sharing the
risk. If they are training people who then go and work for one of their
competitors, but they have confidence that their competitors are also training
people whom they can then employ, they are sharing the risk and there can be a positive
outcome at the end. We have seen that with IiP and, equally, we can we can see
it with apprenticeships.
Q105 Fiona Mactaggart: I am glad that the effort is being
put in, but it seems to me that the reality on the ground is different. I got an
e-mail from the mum of a 17-year-old lad in my constituency, except he is not
in my constituency anymore. The previous e-mail that I received from her told
me that he had already written 99 letters to employers, that he had done all
the college bit of his apprenticeship and that he could not find an employment
placement. He has found one now-in Leeds. She
quite reasonably feels that her 17-year-old son being based in Leeds to do his plumbing apprenticeship is a bit much,
although she is very glad that he has got the place.
I am wondering whether we have sorted
out the tension between the need for the young person to get broad and balanced
training across a sector, so that they have the base that can give them the
flexibility that they will need in future, and a world in which companies have
become more specialised and cannot offer that flexibility. I do not see the
Bill as providing any intelligent way of resolving the tension that exists in
the modern world.
Jim Knight: The
guarantee in clause 21(2), in proposed new section 3E(2) of the Learning and
Skills Act 2000, specifies a test of reasonableness in paragraph (2)(c), with
the phrase "within the person's reasonable travel area." Say you want to be an
apprentice plumber and you live in Slough. I
do not think that any court would judge that Leeds was within a reasonable
travel area of Slough. The Learning and Skills Council-the Skills
Funding Agency, as it will become-and the NAS within that will have to work
very hard in places such as the south-east to ensure that they have the
engagement of employers wanting to take on apprentices within the reasonable
travel area of every young person in this country, even those in Slough. I was pleased to see, when looking at the
statistics yesterday for 16-to-18 apprenticeships, that there was some
growth. Although the big growth that we
are seeing is in adult apprenticeships, there is some in apprenticeships for 16
to 18-year-olds. The really spectacular
growth is in the London
area. So, we are starting to see some
signs of change, but we have a lot further to go. That is why we have placed quite a robust
duty on the LSC in that important clause, by stating "within the person's
reasonable travel area", to try and tackle exactly the problem that you are
Q106 Fiona Mactaggart: There is no mechanism that I can
see for the LSC to deliver, because there is no duty on the employer. There is no bribe for the employer-no special
arrangements. Employers are under
greater tension now. I have had a really
positive response from employers in Slough-one
of the most productive areas in the country-to our demand for more skills
training and so on. They all say,
"Fine," but they really keep not turning up stuff-they say nice stuff, but they
cannot do it, because they are so focused on their bottom line at the
moment. I do not see how giving a duty
to the LSC is going to make employers do what they need to do.
Chairman: Lord Young, how
are you going to do it?
You used the word "bribe". I do not know
whether you can bribe employers, but I think that, first of all, we have to
remove the obstacles, because there are still obstacles. We have to make it easier for them to do
it. Secondly, we are paying for the
training. We are not paying wages, but
we are paying for the training costs of apprenticeships. That is a significant cost.
What will make employers do it? I think that we are down to convincing people
that, if they want to improve the performance of their company, a better skilled
or better trained work force will do that for them. So, there will be a multiplier effect, if you
like. Obviously, the more that we can
persuade to do that, the better. I do
not think that we are arguing that we do not have a job to do or that there are
no difficult circumstances, but it depends whether you see the glass as half
full or half empty. We certainly do not
see it as half empty. We do not have a
situation where there are no apprenticeships.
Our task is to drive up the numbers and to persuade and demonstrate to
employers that there really are tangible advantages. Now, contained in the Bill, as the Minister
has already said-
Please call me Jim.
As Jim said, there are a number of things that we believe will do that. The one-stop shop is a place for employers to
go to-the vacancy matching service. The
proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
We are not in any way underestimating the size of the task. I think that our focus, not just on large
companies, but on small and medium-sized enterprises, is also important.
I think putting a duty on employers, tempting though it might be, would be the
wrong thing to do. Employers have got to
want to do this, if they are going to give apprentices the experience that we
want them to receive. If they are
reluctantly bringing in these young people to give them some training because
the law says that they have got to, those young people will not get the
experience that they need.
We have to engage employers and we are
doing that through skills brokers. Train to Gain is starting to have an impact
in being able to work with employers, understand their skills needs and offer
subsidised or free training. It is
easier to engage larger employers than smaller ones. We can work with sectors by looking at the
supply chain of larger businesses.
Having gone through their procurement, we can look at how they can
encourage employers to offer apprenticeships.
There are things that we can do.
My take is that imposing a duty on all employers would be unwieldy and
would probably not give the outcome that we want.
Q107 Fiona Mactaggart: I absolutely agree. I was not arguing for imposing a duty,
because I do not think that that would work.
I was shocked at a meeting I had with three cutting-edge biotechnology
companies in Slough-
What size were they?
Fiona Mactaggart: They were reasonably large. They were medium-sized to large companies
such as UCB Celltech and Lonza. I was
talking to them about training because I wanted them to engage in this
issue. They were talking about having
difficulties with technician-level skills.
Because the development of biopharmaceuticals is relatively new, there
is no traditional route. I spoke to them
about apprenticeships and suggested that instead of handing the problem to the
Government, they should converse with each other and work together to develop
an apprenticeship scheme. I was shocked
that they had no ideas at all about apprentices. Their first response was that they cannot
carry the cost of people who are not performing for a long time. That is an obvious point about
We give tax breaks for research and
development. Apprenticeships are like R
and D. You are investing in your future
in the same way that you do with R and D.
However, we do not provide tax breaks for employers in the same way if
they invest in apprentices. I am not
saying we should mandate that they must be provided, but if we structure the
financing using tax breaks for a group of companies like those in
biopharmaceuticals, they could be up for it and put their management energy
into making it happen. The brokers have
not been anywhere near them and do not know what they are like. All of the goodwill at the moment is just not
Chairman: I ask
colleagues to keep their questions a little shorter and the Ministers to make
their answers a little shorter, as we are still on section 1 of four sections
Tony and I both have brief things that we want to say.
Chairman: Lord Young?
This is a point I had forgotten. Next
year we will be starting a trial of wage subsidies for small and medium-sized
Q108 Chairman: You mean
providing wage subsidies?
Yes, that will be trialled. We are also
talking about meeting over-training costs of some large employers to get them
to train beyond their needs to support supply chains. Those are the two approaches being tried.
From the scenario you set out, there are clearly areas and sectors that we have
not got into. In addressing the
geographical disparities, we will go to areas that have different sorts of
industries from the rest of the country.
The relationship between
apprenticeships and other qualifications is also important. One of the most enthusiastic backers of the
phase 4 science diploma is the pharmaceutical industry. We are seeking to engage the biotech
industries in that. For example, you
could do a level 2 diploma at 14 to 16-years-old and go on to do a level 3
apprenticeship to develop the skills of a laboratory technician. The pharmaceutical industry is crying out for
those sorts of skills. That underpins
why companies such as AstraZeneca are on the diploma development partnership
for science. They see a clear gap in the
qualifications set-up for delivering those skills.
Chairman: Everyone wants
to come in on this section so we will quickly hear from Sharon and Paul before
we move on.
Q109 Mrs. Hodgson: You answered questions about employee
mobility and the fact that employers might train up apprentices who will then
take their skills elsewhere. I am
interested in the employer commitment to offer real jobs to these apprentices
at the end of their training, especially in light of the fact that we may be
going into an economic downturn. I am
wondering what safeguards or guarantees there will be for the young people, to
stop what happened in the 1980s with the youth training scheme, where young
people were trained up over a period but there was never a real job at the end
of it. Employers used the YTS as a
source of cheap labour, so I am wondering if there are any guarantees in this
scheme that that will not happen.
In terms of the Bill, this would be contained in the apprenticeship agreement,
where we are making sure that this is defined as an agreement between the
employer and the learner. In that
respect, the agreement would be similar to an employment contract. In terms of guarantees, it is difficult to
say that it would be more of a guarantee than an employment contract, but it
would be difficult to say that it is less than the guarantee that you would get
in an employment contract.
I think that the apprenticeship
agreement is significantly more robust than the YTS in that regard. We have taken some care to define the
agreement in clauses 16 to 20 of the Bill, to provide some clarity and some
robustness in that regard.
The only thing that I could add to that is that we are talking about a much
better product than the YTS for a start.
What has the young person got?
Unfortunately, regardless of apprenticeships, you cannot guarantee any
job within a company necessarily; the company might collapse. What has the individual got? Well, they have got a clear set of both
transferable skills and genuine craft skills.
What is the recipe for survival in a
downturn? Is the recipe having no skills
or having a range of skills? I would say
that the recipe has got to be having a range of skills. There is no absolute guarantee, but we are
saying that we will not have a situation where there is not a genuine contract
between an employer and an apprentice in order to qualify for the term "apprentice".
Q110 Paul Holmes: To return to the financial issue that
Fiona was talking about, the British Chambers of Commerce, in the evidence that
it submitted to the Committee, said that businesses, especially small and
medium-sized enterprises, will require financial incentives and support for
apprenticeships. Nick Edwards from Lewisham College told the Committee that, as long
as colleges are well paid for delivering training for apprenticeships,
employers should also be paid for the training part of it.
Jim talked about Train to Gain, but
the fear is that witnesses have said that employers will use Train to Gain
because it is free up to level 2 and they will not use apprenticeships because
there is no money for them.
As Tony has just said, we are trialling the wage subsidy for SMEs, because we
need to build some evidence to see whether that is an issue. I think that there is varying feedback on
whether wage subsidy will be the answer.
Some people argue-that is why we are trialling it-that it is the tipping
point that pushes employers into deciding that they want to do it. However, most people agree that people are
involved in apprenticeships not because of the wage subsidy, but because they
value these young people or adults who are working in their workplace and doing
a good job for them.
In the end, that is where we want to
get everyone to. We do not want them to
be motivated to do it because of wage subsidy, but if wage subsidy creates the
tipping point, it is worth pursuing.
That is why we are trialling it.
Q111 Paul Holmes: But look at Denmark, for example. A few years ago, the old Education Committee
looked at further education and adult skills training in Denmark. Denmark has a system where there
was the employer levy on everybody and everybody took part in providing
apprenticeships. We were told that they felt that they had already paid for
that through the levy, so they might as well make use of it.
As I said before, the fear here is
that you get Train to Gain, all the evidence for which so far says that most of
it is deadweight money, with employers using that money for things that they
were providing themselves initially.
Now, however, they let the state pay for it, and that will just work
against everything that you are trying to do.
I am not sure, particularly at this point in the economic cycle, that imposing
a levy on all employers is the wisest thing to do.
Q112 Paul Holmes: I was not suggesting that it was,
although a year or two ago the skills White Paper was saying on every page that
this is the last chance saloon for employers and that if they do not put the
money up and start training, perhaps we would have to do something about
it. That is what you said in the skills
White Paper, but is Train to Gain going to undermine what you are trying to do
No, I do not believe that it is. I
honestly think that we have to persuade employers that there is a real
advantage to their survival in training their current employees and in bringing
fresh blood into the company through apprenticeships. There is no side-stepping that, which is why
we have the apprenticeship ambassadors, the other 400 people going out there
working. There are no short cuts to
this. I would not like to engage in what
has become almost an ideological argument about whether to have a training levy
or not. We are not in that situation at
Q113 Chairman: But Tony,
people say that there is a lot of unspent money from Train to Gain. Can that be
switched across to help apprenticeships or not?
We are trying to use some of that Train to Gain money to offer SMEs training to
improve their business techniques, management training and so on. I do not know whether it will be pushed into
the apprenticeship area.
Q114 Chairman: Could it
be? It would be terrible if it went back
to the Treasury unspent.
I do not think that it will be under-spent in the current circumstances.
John committed £350 million of the £1 billion yesterday to the various packages
for SMEs, in terms of relaxing some of the rules, breaking some things into
bite-size chunks as regards qualifications, and allowing groups of SMEs on
business parks in order to do things together.
We must leave something for Train to Gain, having taken £350 million
out. I am sure that Tony and his
colleagues in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills will be
making sure that they use it.
The other issue is that Train to Gain is being used for apprenticeships, I am
Q115 Chairman: Is it?
So I am advised by my officials.
Chairman: Edward, you
will lead us through 16-to-19 apprenticeships and we are going to step up the
Q116 Mr. Timpson: I shall be as brief as I can. We have spoken at some length about the
careers opportunities for young people through the Bill, but also about career
fulfilment. On that second point, one of
the provisions in the Bill is that people seeking an apprenticeship need to
have two sectors. First, what is the
rationale behind that? Is there not a
danger that you will have young people who have a desire in a particular
profession or career path, for which they have also shown aptitude, but that
because they have had to put forward two sectors they end up in the default
sector, where they do not have the desire or potential career fulfilment that
you are looking for?
I think that two is the right balance. I
understand your point-that if we limited it to one it would be the one thing
that a young person might want to do-but a lot of people are not absolutely
clear about one thing. There might be a
couple of things that they would be interested in doing, and if you can offer
the guarantee, it gives young people more rather than less. If we went beyond two, the guarantee would
become very weak. The chances are that
we would not be far off being able to deliver a choice of three as it is, so we
need something that is a strong driver to the system, but I think that
restricting it to one would deny some opportunities to young people and we do
not want to do that.
That is right.
Q117 Mr. Timpson: Perhaps we can attack it from a slightly
different angle and consider a situation where a young person has a particular
career path that they want to follow, but there is no demand within that sector
for the apprenticeship that they are looking for. What happens then? Does the Learning and Skills Council or its
successor step in and ensure that there is an apprenticeship for them, or are
they left to wait until it arrives, which may be too late?
If a young person has said that they want to do-
Q118 Mr. Timpson: Suppose they say that they want to go
into rail engineering and the response is, "I'm sorry, there are no
opportunities for apprenticeship in that sector, however, would you like to go
They would specify their two sectors, so one of them would be rail engineering
and the other would be something else.
The duty in the draft Bill would be on the LSC to guarantee a place
within a reasonable travel distance for them in one or other or both of those
sectors. If they are in Falmouth
and they want to do rail engineering, it may be reasonable to offer that at
some distance away where rail engineering is taking place, perhaps in the
wonderful town of Crewe.
That is where the test of reasonableness will come in. There are some niche
occupations where there will not be that many geographical locations where it
is reasonable to offer that apprenticeship. That is why the vacancy matching
service is very important. We can put all those vacancies up nationally and
people can see, even if they want to get into a fairly niche apprenticeship
framework, where they are available and where they can go to do them. If they
want to become a plumber in Falmouth
and everybody needs plumbers-
Mr. Pelling: Especially Joe.
Joe is a plumber; he does not need
one at all; he is his own plumber.
Q119 Mr. Timpson: What we need to establish is whether
this will be an employer-led apprenticeship scheme or one where the young
people who are looking for apprenticeships are given a helping hand by the duty
placed on the LSC. Can you clarify whether a young person who is looking for a
particular sector for an apprenticeship and it is not available to them can
come to you for help?
Obviously you want to try to satisfy young people's requirements, but we cannot
guarantee that there will be apprenticeship places in all occupations in all
locations. It might be nirvana but I do not think that we are going to get
there, are we? Life is full of difficult choices. When young people are making
career choices now they are tending to think a bit more about what is likely to
be available when they have gone through whatever it is that they are going to
do, whether that is an apprenticeship or academic qualifications. They may want
to do rail engineering, but they might find
that it is not on offer locally and they might consider doing some similar
form of engineering. We will obviously try to ensure that the maximum choice is
available, but it would be wrong to imply that it will always be there. It will
not in current circumstances. I do not think that is different from any time in
the past when there were thousands and thousands more apprenticeships
available. They were not always available in every place in the country. You
had to look at the labour market. Our job is to drive up the number of quality
apprenticeships that are available and to give people a reasonable choice,
which we are trying to do with the two-sector definition. That will be quite a
challenge in itself.
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?
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 court.
Chairman: A reasonable
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
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.
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. Much
more clearly 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.
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
And Josephine the plumber. We made sure
in one of our documents-I 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 stereotypes.
Q126 Chairman: Could the
images be supplemented with information about earnings?
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.
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
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 everything, Tony.
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.
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 and deepen.
Q128 Annette Brooke: May I ask-very briefly, because of
the time-why 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
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.
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
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?
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.
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 the problem?
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?
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
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
Q133 Mr. Chaytor: But you agree that there ought to be
some flexibility over the rigid application of level 1 five GCSEs?
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.
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 31 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
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
mast-if that is not stretching things too much-and 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.
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
Q136 Mr. Stuart: That sounds
great, so why does the Bill block transfer between diplomas and apprenticeships
at certain levels?
In what way does it block 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 apprenticeship-they would need to
go back and do a level 2 construction apprenticeship." Does he also not know
what he is talking about?
Perhaps we need more messaging out 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.
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.
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.
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?
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 tier-the 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 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, that if 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
Q140 Mr. Stuart: We come again
and again to the concern about the guarantee obligation on the LSC and the
difficulty of being able to deliver that without the co-operation of
employers. The other problem with
centrally driven targets and guarantees is that they tend to lead to distortion. They may have an impact, whether on health
service clinical priorities or elsewhere, and have a diluting quality. How confident are you that we will not see a
big increase in virtual apprenticeships as a result of the LSC's need to
deliver the guarantee, and to be seen to do so?
If it fails, as you say, the LSC could end up in court, so it will try
desperately to tick the box. Is there
not a danger that quality could go out of the window?
That is why we have been clear in the way in which we framed the legislation to
ensure that you cannot complete an apprenticeship unless you have an
apprenticeship agreement, which is an agreement between an employer and a
Q141 Mr. Stuart: Yes, but
again the law of unforeseen consequences suggests that they will go any lengths
to get some form of contract so that they can tick the box, and it might not be
a true apprenticeship as understood. Is
that not the danger of the guarantee? It
is laudable to want to ensure that everyone can have this, but if you do not
provide the resources or the powers for the LSC to deliver, it will try to
deliver anyway because you told it that it must.
You can never rule out the law of unintended consequences, but you can try to
anticipate consequences. We are trying
to anticipate that possible unintended consequence by making it clear in law
that you must be employed to be an apprentice.
Q142 Mr. Stuart: Do you think
that that is enough? Are you convinced?
Yes. There will be a place for what we
have been calling programme-led apprenticeships, and there will be places for
college learning, which is not a bad thing, but to complete an apprenticeship
and to be able to say that you have been an apprentice, and for us to be able
to deliver on our target of one in five by 2020, all the statistics about
starts and completions must be about apprentices who have an apprentice
agreement between the employer and the learner.
The reason for being so emphatic about that is the point you made. It is not up
to the employer to say, "We'll throw this in. This will count as an
apprenticeship." No, it will not. It has to be a proper agreement. They have to
ensure that they fit within the frameworks that are negotiated with the sector
skills councils. I think we have put the necessary safeguard in place. It is
right to have a target. If we want to reach the objectives on skills as defined
in the Leitch report, and if we believe in the value of apprenticeships, then
we have to have an overall target. However, we also need to ensure that people
do not meet it by subterfuge or merely pay lip service to it. There is a
quality that is clearly defined.
Q143 Mr. Stuart: How useful do
you think programme-led apprenticeships are? Do you think that there will be a
big increase in them as a result of the Bill?
Chairman: Are they
diluting the currency?
I think that the problem is when you add the word apprenticeship at the end of
their title. Right at the beginning of this evidence, when asked to describe
the perfect apprenticeship, I set out the four elements that you would want to
see. One is the theoretical knowledge that you need to go with your practical
skills. Some of that theoretical knowledge and some practical skill, as you
know from visiting colleges, can be learnt quite effectively in colleges, but
they have to end up being put into a context in the workplace. If, while
looking for a work placement, you can do in college some learning and some
qualification modules that would make up your apprenticeship, that is not a bad
thing. Just because we are concerned about the way that they have been labelled
apprenticeships, we should not write them off as being a bad thing.
Q144 Mr. Stuart: But is not
the great fear that they give a false promise? In terms of the brand and not
diluting the currency, the Chairman is absolutely right. When people get
switched on to another course because there is not an employer to be found,
does it not end up diluting the currency?
If it is called an apprenticeship then it does.
Q145 Mr. Stuart: So you would
not call them programme-led apprenticeships? The Government say: "Programme-led
Apprenticeships are a helpful way of catering to the demands of prospective
Apprentices where there is not the immediate offer of a job available." It
seems that the Government are as guilty as anyone else here.
We can get wrapped up in what language we should use.
Q146 Mr. Stuart: It is
important, is it not?
It is important how we brand things, but in terms of giving evidence to you, we
need to ensure that you understand what we are talking about. It is in the
common parlance that these things are called programme-led apprenticeships. We
referred to them in the evidence so that you would understand what we are
talking about. In terms of how we move forward, we are extremely clear that
what we might all call programme-led apprenticeships are not real
apprenticeships. They are not what we will measure when we talk about completions
and starts and our 2020 aspiration. If we can end up starting to talk about
them without using the A-word it might be a good thing.
We need to be careful that we do not give them a false promise. We cannot
guarantee employment. It is not a false promise in that we are enhancing their
skills and their job potential. That is a good thing, but we have to be careful
that they are aware that there is no absolute guarantee of employment.
Q147 Mr. Stuart: Okay, so you
drop the A-word and you have this programme-led course. It is applied learning,
but mostly learning. It sounds remarkably like what the diploma is supposed to
be. Are you sure that there is room for both programme-led non-apprenticeships
and diplomas? Should not this be thought through a bit better?
Obviously we would not want you to fall into the trap, which some people easily
do, of thinking that diplomas are vocational learning. They are a mix of
academic and vocational. They are a particular style of teaching and learning.
It is also important to understand that an apprenticeship is effectively a
wrapper around a range of modular qualifications and learning, so aspects of
that, which you might otherwise call an applied A-level, could be part of that
framework. It is a framework. There will be other things that are in there and
I would imagine that people are not going to be enrolling in something called
the programme-led something or other; they will enrol on some of those other
qualifications. They can then use those as credits when they go on to their
Q148 Paul Holmes: Graham has covered most of it, but I
shall expand on what he has been saying. Is there not huge confusion? There are
diplomas that are not vocational but academic; programme-led apprenticeships
that are not apprenticeships; and apprenticeships. If you are confused and we
are confused, what will the kids out there be?
I would never say we are confused. Are we Tony?
We are not confused, but I have to agree that there is a level of complexity
that we need to think carefully about.
Q149 Chairman: Are you sure
you have only been a Minister for three weeks?
I think that is being damned with faint praise. Sorry, I did not mean to put it
that way, but I share your concern. At this stage, given it is a draft Bill, we
ought to think carefully about the way the terminology is used and drafted.
Q150 Paul Holmes: That is refreshing to hear. Again,
earlier in the conversation, you made the point that diplomas are academic and
I am not saying that they are either academic or vocational; they are a rich
mix of the two.
Q151 Paul Holmes: But you were also making the point that
there should not be a block in going from a level 2 diploma to level 3
construction, whereas we were told by the colleges that you would have to redo
level 2 as an apprenticeship, in order to be vocational. Again, there is huge
confusion about where we are going with these things.
I guess what Nick from Lewisham might have been driving at is that,
particularly in terms of practical skills, there might be aspects where you
need to be able to acquire those skills at a level 2 before you can develop
them further at level 3. In some sense, that goes back to our initial
conversation about how much time it would take to do an apprenticeship. It
might be that you have got all the elements through your level 2 diploma,
instead of some of the practical skills that you need to acquire. You can
fairly rapidly acquire those practical skills and then be accredited with a
level 2 apprenticeship as a result of that, and having done most of the
learning during your level 2 diploma, you can then move on to level 3. That
might be what he is driving it, but it is quite a coherent pathway for the bulk
of your level 2 apprenticeship to be acquired through your level 2 diploma.
Q152 Paul Holmes: Does not a lot of this confusion stem
back? Tomlinson said that there should be an overarching diploma that you
arrived at through different academic and vocational routes but that led to the
same qualification. The Government ducked that because the 2005 election was
coming up and all these problems stemmed from that. A year or more ago, we were
taking evidence from the early developers of the diplomas. Ken Boston of the
Qualifications and Curriculum Authority sat in that seat and said that diplomas
must be high-level academic thinking. We had people from colleges and employers
sitting in those seats saying, "No, no, no, they must be very vocational." We
are still not really sure what they are. It all stems back to ducking what
Tomlinson recommended three years ago.
With all respect, if we had ended up going with a single wrapper around
apprenticeships as well as A-levels, for example, all that would have happened
in terms of all the conversations that we have had about how to engage
employers is that they would not be saying, "This learner has got this level of
attainment in their diploma." They would be saying, "What's in the diploma? I
need to know what they have actually learned in terms of their practical skills
for an apprenticeship." It is quite helpful to employers to have clarity around
what the style of teaching and learning is. Is it an academic style, is it a
mix, is it vocational, and what level have they achieved? That is at the heart
of the qualification strategy.
Chairman: We have got
some spare time at the end to cover careers education. Andrew Pelling is going
Q153 Mr. Pelling: Obviously, the Minister has a real
enthusiasm for pursuing this step change for apprenticeships, so I do not want
to appear cavilling in asking a question about the part of the Bill on careers
education. He is obviously driven by a concern as to whether or not schools
will give impartial advice on careers education. That was what our two
witnesses said at last week's meeting. In terms of requiring schools to advise
in their pupils' best interests, is it really necessary-to ask in a sceptical
fashion-to put that burden on schools? What sanction will there be if they do
not comply? Also, to pose a question in another direction and bearing in mind
that there are questions about schools' impartiality, do you agree with our witnesses
from last week that the clause does not go far enough?
The first part of the question refers, pretty much, to clause 68 of the
Education and Skills Bill, which is going through Parliament at the moment.
That will be underpinned by statutory guidance. We do think that it is
necessary. We think that there is sufficient evidence that some schools are
advising pupils to carry on in that institution not because it is necessarily
the right thing for that pupil but because it is the right thing for the
institution. We needed to be able to address that. Parliament willing, once
that becomes legislation, if schools break section 68 of what will be the
Education and Skills Act, they will be breaking the law, and the consequences
will follow in terms of being vulnerable to legal challenge. As we have
discussed in the context of other things, schools will not want to break the
law. They will change their behaviour as a result of our putting that in law.
The second part of your question was
whether the measure goes far enough. We wanted to move things on from clause 68
in the draft legislation and to consider how to reflect that in any subsequent
legislation that we bring forward in the next Session. We wanted to be really
clear in moving it on that every young person needs to be advised about their
suitability for an apprenticeship, particularly for those parts of the country
and those ethnic groups or in addressing gender stereotypes. If we are going to
be able to address all of that and build demand evenly across the country and
across different groups of people, we need to ensure that they are given
appropriate advice that includes apprenticeships. In saying that, we are not
saying that they will be right for everybody, but they need to be included in
Q154 Mr. Pelling: Would
it have been right to go on to the principle of requiring all or some careers
advisers to be entirely impartial, and requiring somebody independent from
schools to be provided?
We are doing more work on the development of information, advice and guidance.
Although with the movement in the Bill from Connexions to local authorities,
and with the application of the new quality standard in IAG, we are changing
things and improving quality, the relationship in turn to careers education,
schools' statutory duty to provide it and, now, their statutory duty for it to
be impartial is something that we have more work to do on. We will have to make
more announcements in the fullness of time. As ever, any advice that we get
from the Select Committee will be listened to carefully. In the end, I think
that saying to schools universally, "You're not doing a good enough job, and
we're therefore going to fund this enormous organisation to come in and deliver
careers education for every young person," is probably going a little bit too
Q155 Mr. Pelling: The usual parochial refrain-
I would be disappointed if there was not one.
Pelling: Absolutely. When you come from Croydon, you have to
be parochial. What resources will there be to ensure that careers staff can
give good-quality advice about options and apprenticeships for young people?
Will that flow?
Yes. At the moment, a lot of careers education is delivered through personal,
social and health education. That is something that we are looking at very
closely, to see how we can improve the standard, quality and consistency of
PSHE learning. Ofsted tells us that that is improving, but there is more that
we can and should do. We set up the subject associations for PSHE, which has
again improved things, but in the context of careers education, financial
literacy, managing money, sex and relationship education and the drugs and
alcohol work that we have been doing, it all comes back to PHSE. Therefore,
there is a lot of reason for us to want to invest further in improving skills
in that area.
Q156 Mr. Chaytor: There is a huge difference in detail and
length between clause 21, which specifies the entry requirements and the
obligation to provide places for apprenticeships, and clause 23, which is
essentially four-and-a-half lines about careers education. The wording in
clause 23 does not do what the Government have said that it ought to do. It
does not require advice about apprenticeships to be given to the young person.
It simply requires the teacher, who is acting as the careers adviser, to
consider whether advice should be given. In reality, it is meaningless, futile
and completely unenforceable.
In this area, we are interested in what the scrutiny of the draft legislation
tells us. Clause 68 in the current Bill allows us to issue statutory guidance
to schools, which they will have to act in accordance with. The statutory
guidance gives us the opportunity to address things in some detail. We may not
need to add anything in the fourth Session Bill, or we may need to. If the
Committee and others want to feed back their thinking on the best way of doing
that so that it works, we are all ears. Obviously, a lot more detail can be
The Bill refers to an amendment to
section 43 of the Education Act 1997. I am not sufficiently agile in my recall
of the 1997 Act to know how much detail there is in that. As I said to Andrew,
the substantive point is that we want to ensure that apprenticeships are part
of the conversation that young people have in their careers education.
Q157 Mr. Chaytor: But you accept that clause 23 does not
require that? It simply moves us in the direction of considering whether it
should be part of the conversation.
It moves us in that direction, and if we need to go further, we will.
Q158 Mr. Chaytor: Do you not accept that the basic
structural problem is that the financial incentives are all at the level of the
individual school maximising the number of young people it should retain
post-16. However, the curriculum that is emerging is far wider and more varied.
Until the Government can reconcile that contradiction, we will have this debate
about impartiality year after year. Do you see a way of reconciling that and
somehow adjusting the financial incentives so that the budget works to provide
There are all sorts of levers to bring to bear on this. We have used the blunt
instrument of legislation in terms of impartial advice. We are currently in a
consultation on the school funding system for the next spending period. One of
the things that we floated there is whether we go to a 14-to-19 system of
funding. In part, that would acknowledge the need for all 14-to-19 providers to
be in a consortium to deliver the diploma entitlement.
We are also working on our vision for the
21st-century school, which will undoubtedly be one that is clustering and
working in partnership. It will still be important for our accountability
structures, which are another key part of the leverage that we have on the
system, to hold individual institutions to account as well as the partnerships
that they are in.
Q159 Mr. Chaytor: Finally,
in view of the raising of the participation age to 17 by 2013 and to 18 by
2015, where does that leave the Connexions service if careers and education
advice is still rooted at the level of the institution? What will Connexions do
when it does not have large numbers of young people free floating after the age
of 16? Young people will be attached to one institution or another.
Connexions will still perform a critical role.
Q160 Mr. Chaytor: What will that role be?
A fundamental role in raising the participation age. Its service has a universal aspect. For example, Connexions Direct is a national
helpline and website for people to access to see what is available and to gain
Q161 Mr. Chaytor: Is that not the role of the individual
Certainly some of our further work will be through the relationship between
careers education advice that people receive in schools that are delivering
their statutory duty and what Connexions will do, but a substantial bulk of the
detailed work of Connexions will be more targeted on young people who need
personalised support because of particular circumstances. They will be at particular risk, so we would
need to deliver a discrete service to them through Connexions, which, in turn,
would form the commissioning decisions of the local authority.
Chairman: A very quick
bite from Paul, and then we shall wind up.
Chairman: A bite of the
action. He is not savage.
Q162 Paul Holmes: When I was head of the sixth form, I did
careers advice post-16, and two careers teachers did careers advice pre-16, but
both pre-and post-16 teaching brought in excellent, independent careers experts
from the LEA each week who saw each year 10, 11, 12 and 13 pupil and gave them
outside, impartial advice. After
Connexions, the general picture throughout the country is that that service has
been massively diluted. The careers experts
became general advisers on drugs, health, housing and the rest of it, and the
general advisers were supposed to become careers experts. It has not really worked. What will you do about that so that we can
have impartial, outside expertise?
Fundamentally, we are passing the responsibility for Connexions back to local
authorities. It seemed the only logical
thing to do. If we are giving, as we
are, local authorities a duty to ensure that they are making proper provision
for every young person in their area until the age of 18, it is logical that
they should have the responsibility for Connexions so that they can offer
information, advice and guidance.
Q163 Paul Holmes: So why take it away in the first place,
when they were doing pretty well in my experience?
That is back in pre-history.
Q164 Chairman: It may be back
in pre-history, Minister, but why are local authorities no longer asked to put
careers services out to contract? They
were in the past. Some hired private
sector companies or not-for-profit companies, or they did it themselves. Why is that no longer the rule?
I think that, unless I am advised otherwise, as we move forward, it will be up
to local authorities to make those decisions for themselves. If they want to contract out their Connexions
service, they can do so, or they can provide it in house.
Q165 Chairman: Would it not be
healthier if there were a contracting process?
Let us be honest. Some of us do
not share Paul Holmes's view of how good the careers service was under local
government in deepest, darkest history.
What is wrong with the contracting-out process?
There is nothing wrong with the contracting-out process.
Q166 Chairman: Most them are
not going to do it now, are they?
In the end, they are accountable at the ballot box for how well their service
is working, and they will decide how they will drive up quality. We regard contracting in certain
circumstances as a useful way in which to move forward. For example, we believe in school
competitions as a way of testing whether we have the right answers.
Q167 Chairman: Two very quick
things to finish the sitting. First, I hope that you will look at the recent
report on information, advice and guidance of the Skills Commission that I
co-chair with Ruth Silver. It is
important to revert to one of my opening questions in the last section. I was
concerned about who decides whether a young person will do an
apprenticeship. We found that 65% of
decisions are still made on the advice of family and friends. Yes, careers advice comes in, but tails
behind even the advice that people gain increasingly about careers on the
Lastly, there is a highly complex bit
in the Bill that I could not fathom about giving the public sector the right to
provide apprenticeships. To me and to
anyone who has read it, that is a dense part of the Bill. Does it mean that there will be real
opportunities and a real movement for public sector hospitals, local
government, universities and this place to run apprenticeships?
There is a whole section on this place-on Crown staff and Parliament. We are absolutely committed to expansion in
the public sector. If, when drafting
clauses and the explanatory notes, we need to make things clearer if they are
too dense, we shall obviously look at it and, as ever, follow your advice.
Chairman: As you know, if
the Governor of the Bank of England is right and we are indeed entering a
recession, a big investment in training might be the best thing that we can do
in this country, but we need it now.
Thank you very much.
Chairman: Thank you.