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My noble friend may say that a lot of good employers have excellent and highly technical training, and that taking employees away from the workplace for training outside would somehow disrupt that. I would not be convinced by that argument, because young people can get all that excellent training with a good employer but, in addition, any good employer and anyone who has been involved in training people in the 16-to-17 age group would say that in addition they needed to do something away from the job. I hope that the Minister will address that.
While specific skills are very important for young people in that age group, transferable skills are even more important. Many of those young people will change their jobs four, five, six or seven times between leaving school and the age of 25. For that reason, if we leave this issue entirely to the employer in the workplace, we will fail in doing all the things that we want to get out of the Bill.
Finally, I hope that my noble friend will be positive in his reply to ensure that we achieve the hugely important objectives of the Bill and turn it into the progressive and lasting piece of legislation that we all hope for.
Baroness Morris of Yardley: My Lords, I have signed up to this amendment and wish to speak in favour of it in support of my noble friends. This goes to the heart of the Bill, because at the moment young people between 16 and 18 are in education, employment or training. This Bill is about quality, raising aspirations and raising standards throughout the sector. None of us, on reflection, would be happy if at the end of the passage of the Bill we had not raised the aspirations of the whole nation by providing better-quality training, leading to the adult training which is provided for elsewhere in the Bill.
My starting point is that it is very difficult to imagine a situation in which good-quality training did not involve some time away from the work station, but that could happen, given the way that the Bill has been written. I am prepared to accept in the details of debate that there might be some specialised courses in some occupations with some high-tech providers where good-quality training may take place at the workplace for 100 per cent of the time. However, no noble Lord would agree that in most occupations, 100 per cent training at the workplace, with no time away for underpinning, applied skills, mentoring or talking, was necessary. The truth is that that would be possible under the Bill. If we leave the legislation as it is to accommodate the very few good employers who perhaps can make an argument for 280 hours of training at the work station that remains good quality, we leave a gaping hole that will allow the less good employers to get away with sometimes shoddy training that is masqueraded as education, training or employment with training for 16 to 18 year-olds at the moment. I say this for one particular reason. If you look at this in terms of supply and demand, there is not a powerful demand side in this. The sort of youngster who will end up with this less good training at the workplace
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I have a number of specific points for the Minister. In government-funded training you can argue that quality can be guaranteed. It is government-accredited, if you like, and so by definition the Government are going to make sure that the course or the training is good quality. What happens with non-government-funded courses for 16 to 19 year-olds? Why would somebody offer non-government-funded training in this regard if it was not to get away with not having to comply with the spirit of the legislation? How would you monitor non-government-funded courses? If you have a financial lever, you are able to withdraw funding if the training is not up to the standard that you want. How will the Government make sure that the training of non-government-funded courses is of the standard we want it to be?
In conclusion, I do not think for a minute that the Government disagree with what those of us supporting this amendment want to achieve, but there is the difficulty of wanting to leave flexibility in the system for things that suit employers and learners, without tying them down, and making sure we have legislative underpinning in terms of quality of training. My judgment is that at the moment the Government have the balance wrong. If amendments are not forthcoming, some young people will carry on exactly where they are now. They will have training that is meant to be good quality but it will take place 100 per cent at the work station and it will lack the rigour and other qualities referred to by my noble friends to make sure that life changes for them and that this legislation is offering them something different from what they have at the moment. For those reasons, I support these two amendments and hope the Government are able to respond in a favourable way.
Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I apologise for not being able to take part at earlier stages of the Bill. I speak now in support of these amendments with recollections of my time as chair of a further education college and in the former Department of Employment.
We have a national problem with good modern skills training, most particularly in technical subjects, and we have a deficit both of capacity and enlightenment on the part of employers, particularly some of those small employers whose advances are so crucial to our economy. A system of training which does not require
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Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I remember being rather attracted by this concept in Committee and I am further beguiled by what has been said today. One of the aspects that attracts me is the requirement to abolish the subsections as specified in the amendment. As I find them extremely difficult to understand and interpret, abolishing them might end up being quite a positive thing.
I am persuaded that it would be a much better system if there could be time away from the workplace both for peer group discussion and, equally importantly, with someone available to make a more detached but equally expert contribution to the skills being acquired. The point made about transferability of skills is terribly important in todays world. I anticipate that this amendment might be favourably received and I look forward to the Ministers reply.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, this is a very important amendment. I find myself entirely in agreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Layard, said about the importance of human interaction in a successful learning process and about getting together with ones fellow students and in a personal way with people who know and understand the subject and can deal with you face to face. However, I see problems with the idea that you should spend all your time away from the work station. A lot of these people may be small employers. They may have their kids stuck in front of computer screens of some kind or another. To force them to provide extra computers and space for use an hour a day by the youngsters they employ is not sensible. Anyway, are not a lot of the courses they are going to be pursuing essentially distance learning courses which are designed to be absorbed at a work station? As long as there is a dedicated time set aside for it and they are not supposed to interrupt it every two minutes because another person is needed on the cash desk or whatever, the work station is going to be the sensible place for them to do it.
This problem is not restricted to this Bill. It is a direction which the Government are pursuing when it comes to learning within prisons. They are looking at getting students there to pursue distance learning individually on their own work stations rather than taught in classes by teachers. Once you go down that route, instead of having a group of pupils within a reasonably close physical proximity who are all studying the same course and are all at the same point on it, you have a group of pupils who are studying different courses, or if they are studying the same course, they are at different points on it. What is the point of getting that group of students together to discuss anything with anybody when all their interests and requirements are different? I am a believer in the old
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Lord Layard: My Lords, do not most of the successful distance-learning programmes that we know ofthe Open University is the classic exampleinclude just an element of off-the-job training of the kind that we have been talking about?
Lord Lucas: My Lords, Report stage is very tiresome from that point of view, particularly when we are getting into an interesting discussion. I was about to say that the only example that I could think of was the Open University. It is the only institution that I am familiar with where you spend a lot of time working on your own but then everyone gets together. It does not mean that the whole programme is done away from your work station or whatever, but there is a requirement for some of the programme to be conducted in a human rather than a mechanical way. Perhaps that is what we should be trying to include in the Bill; otherwise, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said, the system will just be abused. No education will take place because it will be a formulaic course which happens to have been accredited somewhere and it will be delivered in a way that the students find extremely difficult to connect with. It will be a sort of blank, compulsory hour in every day that achieves very little.
For courses to be structured so that students, doing the same course at the same level, have to spend some time together and therefore presumably get away from the workplace to a proper place of educationan educational provider of some sortseems to be the right direction to go in, but how we work that into the Bill I am not at all sure. Nor am I at all sure how we would work it for the Prison Service, and that will be a challenge for OLASS when it comes to look at that side of things. The question is how to reintroduce the human element if you go for distance learning. I think that this issue is well worth discussing between now and Report, and I very much hope that the Minister will take up the invitation from the proposers of the amendment to sit down and talk to them.
Lord Dearing: My Lords, I shall be very brief. It strikes me that the noble Lord, Lord Layard, is not asking for a great deal in Amendment No. 8. He is simply saying that the learning should be away from the work station, but it can still be in the same workplace. I shall limit myself to a question. In order to avoid a young person being exploited during these 280 hoursfor example, in a hairdressers doing menial taskshow will the Government ensure that, if they do not accept the amendment, the training that the young person gets will in fact be of good quality? That is the challenge: how to achieve that without an army of inspectors ensuring that it is done. I rest on that point.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): My Lords, I could not help reflecting that, in dealing with my first amendment, I am up against a formidable array of educationalists: one former Secretary of State, one former Minister and the distinguished educationalists, my noble friend Lord Layard and the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. Therefore, I enter this debate with a certain amount of humility.
Amendment No. 8 specifies that the part-time learning undertaken by young people in full-time work should be done away from their workstations. It is not our policy that this learning should always be carried out away from the young persons workstation. Of course, many young people participating in this way by combining a full-time job with part-time learning will be released by their employer to undertake training elsewhere, such as a college, so that all their learning will necessarily be entirely separate from their normal workplace. However, some other young people fulfilling the duty to participate in this way will receive part-time training provided by their employerperhaps at a private training provider or at their workplace. We want to encourage this, as it can be very high-quality learning that meets the employers business needs and is immediately engaging and relevant to the young person. That is surely what we are all concerned about.
I also could not help reflecting on a recent visit that I made to the Yorkshire and Humber region, where I listened to an employer in a daycare nursery who believed passionately in providing high-quality training. They did so and the training occurred in the workplace, although admittedly someone from a further education institution was brought in to assist in the process. So successful was the quality of the training that they set up a sort of mini-academy, which attracted people from other daycare nurseries. Therefore, there is not only one single route to providing this learning. We need to reflect on and understand what people want, what employers needs area point referred to rightly by the noble Lord, Lord Lucasand what all of us who have contributed to the debate want; that is, ensuring that we provide a quality provision. I share that concern.
One of the principles behind the changes that we are making to the 14-19 curriculum and qualifications is that learning should be personalised and delivered in a way that engages the young person and suits his or her individual needs and interests. Some young people learn best when they can immediately see the practical relevance and application of what they are learning. Therefore, it would not be right to specify in the Bill that for all young people learning must be away from the workstation.
I speak from personal experience. As a young man, I suffered the worst and best of employersthose who provided no training whatever and exploited their workforce, and a much better employer who provided an apprenticeship with high-quality training. So I know exactly the kind of perils that young people face in employment situations, about which the best we can say is that they are rich and varied.
Therefore, we do not believe it is right to specify in the Bill that for all young people learning must be away from the workstation. Doing so would unnecessarily prohibit a whole range of very worthwhile learning experiences. Some employers are now so serious about the quality of learning that they are looking to be accredited as awarding bodies on the same terms as traditional awarding bodies, and we would not want to deny young people the opportunity to learn with those employers. Simply requiring the learning to take place in a different location would not in itself provide any guarantees about the quality of the learning.
I make it clear that I absolutely agree with my noble friend Lord Layard that the learning that young people undertake must be of the very highest quality. It must involve guided learning, and young people must learn new things, not simply do their day-to-day jobs. That is why I clearly oppose those who suggest that informal, unaccredited, in-house training or simply being employed without training should count. I remind noble Lords that that is the current situation. The Bill is a profound step forward. It is progressive legislation, which will make a fundamental change in the United Kingdoms workplaces.
I agree that we need much more than that for our young people who are employed and that we would not meet their expectations if it were simply informal, unaccredited, in-house training, but we need to ensure that we continue to allow high-quality guided learning at the workstation, as we know that that is how some young people learn some things best. Although I know that it was meant as a passing comment, I thought that sitting with Nellie was an unfortunate phrase to use. I have had some of my best training by sitting down with people who have showed me exactly how to do something. That is very different from how I was taught at a further education college, which was good at the theory. However, when it came to the practical and to knowing exactly how to do a complex electro-mechanical task, there was no substitute for being with someone who had done that task and had a great deal of experience.
I turn to Amendment No. 9. I know that my noble friend is concerned that the clause as drafted could allow employers a way out from providing any training. I reassure him that the clause does not provide such a way out. It says that a young person can be deemed to have participated in enough training if he has participated in a course or courses leading to an accredited qualification that has been assigned sufficient guided learning hours. I stress that point. There have been many contributions and concerns expressed. I understand the concerns, but they do not seem to recognise that the training cannot be just anything that an employer dreams up. If training is funded then it has to go through an accreditation process. Ofqual assigns guided learning hours to each qualification, as part of the accreditation process, as an estimate of the amount of guided learning required to achieve the qualification. This provides a straightforward way for young people, local authorities, employers and others to tell at a glance whether a young person is participating in enough learning.
Deleting the reference to a course leading to a qualification with the right number of learning hours and relying on a definition that simply required a number of hours of guided learning would mean that someone could miss some hours of scheduled learning as a result of being ill for one day, for example, and would be required to participate in those hours at another time, rather than simply catch up on the learning they had missed, as would normally happen. To make it absolutely clear, this does not mean that employers can simply sign a young person up for a qualification for which they already had the skills and get them accredited without undertaking any actual guided learning. That would clearly not meet the terms of the legislation. In that case, the young person would not have completed a course involving a series of classes or lessons on a particular subject. They would not complete enough hours of actual guided learning to be accredited, so they would be in breach of the duty under the Bill, as would their employer.
We should remember that in many cases the employer will be releasing the young person to do their learning somewhere else, such as a college. We should not presume that all these young people will be at their workstation all the time. Many people will go off on day release and similar schemes. In these cases there will always be a set number of scheduled hours at a completely different location from the workplace, so the question of getting round the requirements will not arise. We are talking only about circumstances in which employers provide accredited training and fund it themselves. My noble friend Lady Whitaker said that she was worried about small employers. I share her concern, but they are the most likely people to go down the funded route. If they do so, be assured that it will have to be accredited. There are safeguards in these circumstances.
We need to ensure that we continue to allow high-quality guided learning that takes place at the workstation. We know that some young people learn some things best in that way. I have already dealt with the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who unfortunately is not here. I agree with my noble friend Lady Blackstone that we need to get it right in these circumstances. Perhaps I part company with her generalisation that someone would be better off unemployed than in a dead-end job. It may be a difficult choice.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I was not suggesting that someone would be better off unemployed than in a dead-end job. I was saying that, from the point of view of the Bill, they would be better off unemployed because they would get proper education and guided learning rather than low-quality education and guided learning entirely at the workstation. Does my noble friend accept that nothing, but nothing in the amendment suggests that learning at the workplace is not desirable? All it suggests is that, on top of learning at the workstation, there needs to be some learning outside the workplace.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that that is not the purpose of the amendment, but it would specify that the 280 hours
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My noble friend Lady Morris said that we need to be clear what the Bill requires and that simply accrediting existing skills without teaching or learning would in no way meet the requirements of the Bill. I will consider my noble friends point whether, in the specific case of employers who provide and fund the accredited training themselves, we need to do more to satisfy ourselves that the requirements are adhered to in practice. That could involve an increased and more proactive role for local authorities in verifying what is happening when a young person is registered as participating in employer-funded training and checking that a course is being followed. When a course of study leading to a qualification is being publicly funded, both the relevant funding body and Ofsted would have responsibility for ensuring that the appropriate number of guided learning hours was delivered and that the quality of learning experience was high. Mechanisms are in place for these organisations to require improvement if they have concerns about the guided learning conforming to the requirements of the Bill.
I say to my noble friend Lord Layard that, in the pursuit of happiness, a subject on which he is an expert, our officials met him five times. I was present on at least one of those occasions to see whether we could reach an understanding. I regrettably cannot announce peace in our time, but nevertheless we have had a serious exchange of views and I understand his concerns. I am grateful to him for raising these important issues and to all who have contributed to the debate.
Baroness Morris of Yardley: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his consideration of the points that I raised on non-government funded courses. I heard him say the word consider with some force. Can he say whether further amendments will be tabled on Third Reading or whether he was referring to existing, perhaps secondary, legislation? If the latter, will the guidance be statutory or non-statutory?
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, if I were expert enough to give a precise assurance on that I would; but I can assure my noble friend that we will take it away and write to everyone concerned on what we will do in the circumstances I described as being under active consideration.
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