HC Deb 25 March 1968 vol 761 cc900-1
30. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Minister of Labour what guidance he intends to give industrial training boards on the need for changes in the apprenticeship system.

Mr. Hattersley

Many of the boards are making progress in establishing training requirements for craft occupations. General guidance was given to them in the Central Training Council's memorandum No. 5, published in April, 1966, and the Council is currently considering the further development of policy for skilled training.

Mr. Lewis

Since there is a need for increased training, and a need to reduce the years worked towards an apprenticeship, will the boards try to influence the reduction of the number of years spent on apprenticeship?

Mr. Hattersley

The boards' task is to give guidance on the years taken over apprenticeship rather than positively to influence the decision, which in many ways is the concern of industrial relations procedures. But the hon. Gentleman will be comforted, as I am comforted, to know that some boards have already done this, not least the Foundry Industry Training Committee which advised that apprenticeship training in that industry should last for three and not five years.

Mr. Heffer

Is not one of the problems that some employers find it difficult to agree to pay the full cost of the rate in the last year, which is creating a problem in relation to a reduction in the number of years?

Mr. Hattersley

This is a problem in some industries, and that is why there are important issues of industrial relations to be decided as well as the more technical issue of for how long the apprenticeship period should last.

Mr. Scott

Should not we be moving away completely from the idea of a prolonged period of training? Is not intermittent training more in line with the needs of a modern economy? Should not the Ministry give a much stronger lead in this matter?

Mr. Hattersley

If the hon. Gentleman means, should not we accept that skilled men will be required to retrain and refurbish their skills during their working lives, that is the case. This is why we particularly welcome the initiatives of the Engineering Board, whose apprenticeship schemes are based on a module system of training which makes adult life a good deal easier than was the case under the old-fashioned schemes of training.