HC Deb 11 April 1960 vol 621 cc887-90

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

87. Mr. R. CARR

To ask the Minister of Labour whether he will make a statement about the training of apprentices at Government Training Centres.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Edward Heath)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to answer Question No. 87.

I am proposing to set up a small number of classes in Government training centres to provide first-year apprenticeship training. This training will only be given to boys accepted as apprentices by firms. Preference will be given to boys from firms which have hitherto found it impracticable to undertake apprentice training or to increase their present number of apprentices.

No charge will be made for the training provided, but employers taking part in the scheme will be required to give an undertaking to pay the wages of apprentices during the year, and to continue the boys' training afterwards under the normal industrial arrangements. The usual provision for day release will apply during the year.

This scheme has been approved as a whole by the British Employers' Confederation and the Trades Union Congress. The establishment of classes in engineering has been agreed by employers and trade unions in that industry. I propose to extend the scheme to other trades and I am already in touch with the building industry.

The first training places will be available early this summer at eight Government training centres. I expect to set up classes at other centres later this year, making a total of about 300 training places.

This scheme will not in itself make a large numerical contribution to the expansion of training for skilled occupations during the "bulge" years. It is intended primarily as a demonstration of a pattern of training which should appeal particularly to the smaller firms with only limited opportunities for undertaking training themselves. I hope that in this way the scheme will encourage industry to increase its intake of young people into skilled occupations.

Mr. Carr

I wish to welcome the action my right hon. Friend has announced. May I ask two further questions about it? Are we to understand that the proposed courses in Government training centres will last for a whole twelve months, full time, so that the employers of these apprentices will have no responsibility for their training during the whole of the first year?

Secondly, may I ask my right hon. Friend what steps he has taken to encourage recruitment to these courses so that full advantage can be taken of facilities?

Mr. Heath

The course will be a full-time one for the whole year except for the normal arrangements I mentioned for day release. The employer will have no training responsibility during the year, but we hope very much that employers will visit training centres from time to time to see the scheme in operation; and we ourselves from time to time will be sending reports on the apprentices to the employers.

From the point of view of publicity, we have prepared a leaflet which will be distributed to all firms concerned within the range of the individual Government training centres where training takes place, and I am glad to say that the engineering employers have undertaken to inform all their members about this scheme. I hope that employers in other industries will do the same as classes are provided for them.

Mr. Albu

Can the Minister say, first, whether this scheme, which I also welcome very much, has been accepted by the employers and the trade unions as the first year of an apprenticeship, or is it the pre-apprenticeship year? At what date does it start? Secondly, if the scheme is successful but the rate of expansion of apprenticeship in industry is not so fast as most of us would like, will the right hon. Gentleman extend the scheme?

Mr. Heath

We are providing the first year of apprenticeship. It is not a pre-apprenticeship scheme and, therefore, it is governed by the normal industrial arrangements. As to expansion, we shall have to wait to see what the response is from the industries involved.

Dame Irene Ward

While I also welcome this scheme, may I ask what is to happen on the North-East Coast in future, in view of the fact that that is the only region which has not got a Ministry of Labour training centre? Am I to understand from the very forthright statement of my right hon. Friend, and as we have a large number of small employers in the North-East, that my right hon. Friend has won his battle with the Treasury and that, on Wednesday, he will be able to announce that we are to have a training centre there?

Mr. Heath

I am aware of the Question that my hon. Friend has tabled for answer on Wednesday and I am giving consideration to that matter. That also applies to this scheme so far as it concerns the North-East. Of course, it will be possible for apprentices to go to Government training centres outside their own areas. The only provision is that they must be accepted first as apprentices by particular firms.

Mr. Robens

Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to publish a full list of Government training centres which are prepared to carry out these courses? Will he also say whether he will consult his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade with a view to seeing what apprenticeship training can be given in those areas of declining employment in some stable industries, so that the sons of cotton workers and miners may be trained in other trades in which, later, they might find employment?

Mr. Heath

I shall publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the names of the first eight training centres with these classes, and the right hon. Member will find that they are widely spread. One is in Scotland and another in South Wales. That, I think, will deal with the point about areas of high unemployment.

Mr. Lawson

In view of the fact that in Scotland there are many boys who have gone through pre-apprenticeship training, and that after that training is completed they are unable to find work, will the right hon. Gentleman keep that point in mind and not exclude from such training facilities boys who cannot find work at their own trades?

Mr. Heath

I shall keep that in mind. I think that that emphasises the need to ensure that a boy is apprenticed with a particular firm before he undertakes a year's training.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that we can debate this matter now.

The first centres at which it is intended to set up classes are: Aintree, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Hillington (Glasgow), Leeds, Letchworth, and Long Eaton.