HC Deb 15 April 1975 vol 890 cc289-90
Mr. Healy

One of our most persistent problems is the shortage of skilled manpower in key industries and key areas. In a recession one of the first cuts that firms make is in their training programmes; and, at the same time, potential trainees are less willing to undergo training when they see less immediate prospect of it leading to a definite and attractive job, especially if it means being away from home or moving permanently. So, when an economic upswing comes, bottlenecks emerge in the supply of skilled and trained manpower, particularly in the engineering industry. What is more, the problem seems to get worse and the shortage arrives earlier with each new business cycle. We must therefore use the recession to prepare for the upswing by improving the level of training, both by firms themselves and in the Government's skill centres and colleges of further education.

Accordingly, in consultation with my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Employment, I propose to allocate an additional £20 million in 1975–76 and £30 million in 1976–77 to the Manpower Services Commission, for the purpose of strengthening and accelerating the growth of the training programmes of industry and of the Training Services Agency introducing special measures of training for the unemployed; improving the efficiency of the Employment Services Agency; and providing additional incen- tives for job mobility. This will be on top of the substantial development already planned in the programmes for which the Commission is responsible. It will make available training for some 30,000 additional people in 1976. In addition to 20,000 places provided once-and-for-all short term, the total involved in Training Services Agency schemes in 1976 will then stand at 80,000 compared with 46,000 in 1974 and only 5,540 in 1964.

The problem is not, however, only a short-term one and it is not only a matter of providing more facilities for training but also of making better use of the skilled manpower we already posses and encouraging people to acquire skills. This calls for a substantial effort by both sides of industry at the level of the individual firm or factory as well as by the Government. The Manpower Services Commission includes representatives of industry, and in recent months the Secretary of State for Employment and I have had the benefit of much valuable advice from the commission, supported by its agencies. We intend to continue this, and our meetings will be underpinned by continuing consultation at official level.