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Mr. Hayes: I can reassure the Minister that I am not cynical in the slightest; it is a mix of playfulness and insight, which he mistook for cynicism. Will he give me just one example of an employer who would regard the wording in this amendment as so inflexible that they could not build their apprenticeship around that definition? I cannot think of a single example. If he can give me one or two, or five or 10, I would be delighted to hear them.
Mr. Simon: The point that I am making is not that there is necessarily an inherent contradiction or an obvious flaw in the wording of the hon. Gentleman’s amendment, but that to provide a very short and what might be called a core definition, as he wants to do, potentially hamstrings people and provides inflexibility, in the way that having a very detailed, substantive definition—which the definition in the Bill is—does not do and specifically seeks to avoid doing.
I support the intention that apprenticeships must involve a mixture of on-the-job training and structured learning that takes place away from the immediate work station and leads to competence in the relevant trade, profession or occupation. We know that that is what an apprenticeship is and all those elements are provided in the Bill as drafted.
The SASE, which is currently out for consultation, requires all frameworks to set out the principal qualification—namely, the level of knowledge and competence required to complete the framework—and requires all frameworks to specify the minimum number of guided learning hours to be delivered away from the work station. The apprenticeship agreement will require both the apprentice and the employer to agree the levels of on-the-job training and structured learning away from the work station. We are committed to high-quality apprenticeships as an employer-led experience. That is why we are putting this whole specification on a statutory basis. We are strengthening the requirements that all frameworks must meet and we are introducing an apprenticeship agreement as a contract of service between an apprentice and his or her employer. Taken together, these will deliver a high quality apprenticeship.
Mr. Stuart: I wonder whether the Minister could explain why the SASE specifies the amount of time to be spent training away from the work station but provides no requirement as to the amount of time to be spent at work as part of the apprenticeship, to check that it is a genuine job.
Mr. Simon: Regarding the first point, the SASE specifies the amount of time to be spent away from the work station because, although we have not focused on it much this afternoon, that is an important part of an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship must be based in a job, but it must also include high-quality, guided and instructed formal learning.
As for why the amount of time that has to be spent at work is not specified, as I said, where else could that job take place? It is a truism to say that a job has to be at work. Who are these employers who are going to employ people, hire them, train them but divorce them from the workplace? We do not believe that that is an issue. The issue is the quality, specificity and the wide scope of definition that we have in the Bill. Parts 1 and 4 give us a high-quality definition of what an apprenticeship is, how the system works, and how it can deliver skills and training for learners and skilled learners for businesses and employers, which is what we need. On that basis, I encourage the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings, although I understand his motivations, to withdraw his amendment.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 9.
Division No. 3]
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Stephen
Blackman, Liz
Butler, Ms Dawn
Ennis, Jeff
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Knight, rh Jim
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Question accordingly negatived.
Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Ms Butler.)
6.56 pm
Adjourned till Thursday 12 March at Nine o’clock.
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