§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. John Hare)
A principal function of the Youth Employment Service is to stimulate apprenticeship and the local youth employment committees throughout the country give much help in this task. The Industrial Training Council is continuing the valuable activities which have contributed greatly towards the substantial increase in apprenticeship this year and is now engaged in a special study of apprenticeship and training methods. Last June, the Council set up regional committees which contain representatives of both sides of industry and other interests, and are serviced by 910 officers of my Department. Their purpose is to keep the regional situation under regular review, to advise the Council thereon and to sponsor local initiatives.
In addition, I am discussing the general question of existing apprenticeship arrangements with employers' organisations and trade unions in the major apprentice-employing industries.
§ Mr. Owen
Does the Minister realise that, apart from the regional work which is being done—which is, of course, imporant—the key to the development of the apprenticeship system is local consultation? Further, is he aware of the work being quite successfully done in this respect by his Department in the Ashington area through personal contact between his own officers and local employers?
§ Mr. Hare
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. I think he will agree that what we want is both local effort and the good offices of the Industrial Training Council working at national level. These two things combined will, I believe, help us to get some of the results we want.
§ Mr. Prentice
We all welcome the increased number of apprenticeships this year, but does the Minister agree that next year there will be an even larger number of school leavers, at the peak of the bulge, as it were, and there is also a very important long-term problem in increasing the quantity and quality of apprenticeships? Has the right hon. Gentleman further plans for expanding the Industrial Training Council and its staff to cope with these problems over a longer period?
§ Mr. Hare
The hon. Gentleman is quite right to suggest that, although we, have done reasonably well this year, there is no possible room for complacency next year. I am in the closest touch with the I.T.C. and I am discussing the whole problem with the object of seeing that the efforts put into the job this year are carried forward with energy and efficiency next year.