§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. James Prior)
At the end of March 1981 there were some 128,000 young people on the youth opportunities programme.
§ Mr. Dubs
Does the Minister accept that if young people on the job opportunities programme are to find jobs when their part of the programme is over it is essential that there should be adequate training for them? How much money is available for planned off-the-job training as part of the YOP courses?
§ Mr. Prior
I do not think that I can give the hon. Gentleman the figure that he requires, but I agree very much that a bigger element of training is necessary in all youth opportunities programmes. The element of training has risen from about 25 per cent. of YOP places two years ago to more than 40 per cent. now. As the hon. Gentleman will know, we are also increasing the scheme known as unified vocational preparation, which is a scheme for those who are in jobs and who would receive up to a year's training, partly subsidised by Government and partly at the expense of the employer.
§ Mr. Hannam
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is great concern at the lack of take-up of places in our colleges for training for skills and concern that the Manpower Services Commission may be taking up an increasing number of the vacant places rather than those supplied through employers, with the result that a large number of youngsters will take training courses but finish up without any qualifications? Will he look into that problem?
§ Mr. Prior
If my hon. Friend wishes to raise any specific point about his own constituency, I shall certainly look into it. Generally speaking, we are giving every encouragement for off-the-job training under the youth opportunities programme, which could include, of course, an element of training in technical colleges and colleges of further education. We must constantly watch that we do not draw people away from those courses to take YOP places which I believe are of less use than the education courses.
§ Mr. John Grant
When does the Secretary of State expect to be able to begin to fulfil his pledge of last November about extended vocational training for all 16 to 18-year-olds as a major contribution to solving the awful problem of youth unemployment?
§ Mr. Prior
I have always said that that will take a considerable time. I think that the increase that we have allocated for UVP for the coining two years, together 'with the additional training element in the youth opportunities programme which has been greatly expanded, will certainly take us some way towards that. I hope that before long the Manpower Services Commission will issue its new training initiative programme which may give us some further indication.