HC Deb 08 June 1981 vol 6 cc153-79

'In the Principal Act, in section 1, insert the following subsections after subsection (4):— (5) It shall be compulsory for all employers of young people in the 16 to 18 years age group to make provision for such young persons to spend one day each working week at established colleges to take courses relevant to the skills required in their work and where necessary, to advance their general education. (6) Where a young person between the ages of 16 and 18 has been registered as unemployed for a period of three months continuously, the education authority shall in consultation with the Manpower Services Commission, make provision for such young persons to attend established colleges for a least one day per week to take courses which will offer vocational training and advance their general education.".'—[Mr. Gordon Wilson.] Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The aim of the clause is to breathe life into the provisions in sections 45 to 48 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. From 1948 almost until the present time there has been a provision in the Scottish Education Acts for the education of those over the school leaving age until 18. The format adopted a number of years ago, and continued in successive Acts, relates to an institution called a junior college.

A junior college is a very interesting institution, because it does not exist. Yet religiously, every five or 10 years, whenever we codify the law relating to education in a consolidation Bill, there is a repetition of the provision that a duty is to be placed on every education authority to provide for young people compulsory further education and that it is the duty of every young person upon whom…a notice is served to attend at the junior college". The Act stipulates what the period of attendance should be, and contains Provisions for securing attendance at junior colleges", "Enforcement of attendance at junior colleges and Power to require attendance of unemployed young persons at junior colleges". All would be well, except that we do not have any junior colleges.

The introduction of the colleges was intended to be triggered off by a Secretary of State at some time or other making regulations, which would be brought before the House, to enable them to be set up. One of the difficulties is that the Act contains no indication of what a junior college is to be. Most of us accept, particularly in these days of restricted public finance, that it is very unlikely that the Government, certainly the present Government, would go out of their way to set up a new form of tertiary education that would serve the purposes specified in the 1980 Act and its predecessors.

Section 1(5)(b) of the Act gives a clue to the intentions of the former legislators on the provision of further education for young people. It says that it is designed to enable them to develop their various aptitudes and capacities and to prepare them for the responsibilities of citizenship". That definition is very useful; it puts the parameters on the provision. I do not think that any hon. Member would think that the provision of junior colleges, if ever they came into existence, would be an undesirable change in our education structure.

Our tertiary education in Scotland has got into a bit of a tangle. The Government have made proposals, and consultations and commissions of inquiry are going on, to disentangle the whole system and rationalise and simplify it. Therefore, my starting point in the clause is that it is unlikely that there will be such a thing as a junior college. I have suggested that we should use the existing, established colleges. Without going to all the trouble of setting up new institutions, we could thus make better use of our current facilities.

From the latest statistics on post-school education, one discovers that the take-up rate is very low. I draw the Minister's attention in particular to an answer that he gave me on 23 March this year. The figures show that in 1979–80 the number of students engaged in full-time non-advanced education totalled 18,946. In the same year the number of students aged between 16 and 24—a span beyond that mentioned in the new clause—taking part-time advanced education was 9,610, or 1.3 per cent. of the population. Those taking day release non-advanced education amounted to 42,633, or 5.6 per cent. of the population. The figure for block release non-advanced education was 11,303, or 1.5 per cent. of the population, and for non-advanced vocational further education taken during the evenings the total was 23,440, or 3.1 per cent. of the population.

A comparison with other European countries shows that the number taking courses is very low. The percentage rates are particularly devastating. It will be difficult for the Scottish Office to offer much defence except to argue that the situation has existed for a considerable time. The statistics are appalling for any country that prides itself on its education system and its ability to make courses available to all sections of the community. The fact that about 60 per cent. of youngsters leave school with minimal or no qualifications must also be considered.

The new clause takes into account the present high level of young people unable to find a job when they leave school, with the psychological effects and the blighting of lives involved. An attempt is made to provide these young people with some chance to continue their education without having to attend secondary school and to give them the status of students. In that different environment, they may respond.

It is always wise to try to discover what happens in the education system in different countries. An international comparison of vocational training was carried out by Chris Hayes Associates Ltd. of London in the form of a report, prepared at the request of the training services division of the Manpower Commission Services, dated April 1980. It has summaries and papers relating to West Germany, France, the United States and Sweden.

West Germany has more than 1.5 million apprentices, including 500,000 girls. Only about 6 per cent. of school leavers at the age of 15 or 16 fail to get apprenticeships, and the Federal Republic plans to provide training for even more young people. A wide range of full-time and part-time courses leads to the award of various grades of certificates. This grading and constant retraining has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) in relation to payment of teachers in the United States. In West Germany it is part of a system in which people can change jobs, receive training and move either vertically or horizontally in relation to advanced skills or different ranges of skills.

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In Sweden compulsory education lasts until the age of 16, with comprehensive schools providing only general education, although the last two years of school education include careers education, work visits and work experience. After the age of 16 there are two to four-year upper secondary schools, which provide general, vocational and technical education. These schools are voluntary, but about 80 per cent. of school leavers register with them. Additional higher education institutions provide full-time technical education. Leave from employment for education and training has been a legal entitlement since 1975.

I have given only two examples, but they are not unique. Hon. Members would find it worth while to go through the documentation and study the booklet "Outlook on Training—a Review of the Employment and Training Act 1973", which was produced by the MSC in July 1980. Together with some of the EIS papers that have been submitted, the documents have some comments to make. I believe that there is a close interlinking between education and training. If there is not, there should be. All hon. Members will know that the present system has difficulties and lacks flexibility.

By comparison with other countries, Scotland has not even skimmed the surface of providing real post-school facilities that are both relevant to needs and in tune with the modern world. There is no need to rehearse the arguments contained in the Euro-Scot report of 1975. That report is a bit old. However, it is worth reminding hon. Members that it showed that a large number of young Scots felt alienated from the society in which they lived. Undoubtedly, that alienation will have been increased by the growth in youth unemployment. When one contrasts the systems operating in Germany and Sweden with ours, one can see the deficiencies of our system. A better system of post-school provision would help to reduce that alienation and the all-too-prevalent feeling of despair amongst our youngsters.

Successive Governments have attempted to deal with the problem in different ways. All parties realise that there is a long way to go. Some of the facilities provided under the youth opportunities programme are causing dissatisfaction among the young. They feel that the programme has been a bit of a fraud. It is regarded as a dead-end scheme and many youngsters feel that they are being used as cheap labour. They gain some work experience, but they do not gain skills. Once the experience is over, they pass on to the general list of unemployed people.

For six or eight months, a path has been worked on under the youth opportunities programme. When I pass the site I see youths working in a desultory way. At one time they found it difficult to get tools. The task is almost akin to the great project undertaken in Paris in about 1870, when huge holes were dug and then filled in again. It represents a Government attempt to provide young people with a taste of employment. The courses and opportunities provided under the programme are essentially short-term. The scheme's four basic essentials are induction into the world at work, planned work experience, a process of counselling and, lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, the opportunity of training, further education and an improvement in education standards.

That brings me to the new clause and its proposals. As I said in my initial remarks, there has been on the statute book for years the well-intentioned proposal to cater for those who are employed, but may not have the opportunity of day release, by attendance at junior college. It also provides for those who are unemployed the opportunity of education, to improve their general standards of education and to obtain vocational training. It is a dead letter, because it has never been invoked. Yet, because it remains on the statute book, repeated, replaced but never excised, it shows that Governments have, over a period of time, accepted the principle that post-school education is desirable and useful.

It may be said as an excuse for not implementing the proposal I put forward that it will cost money. I take the view from the outset that further education, vocational training, is a way of improving the labour force, of improving the lives of our young people. I believe that post-school education is the natural extension of school education, but with a different dimension, and that, even by those standards, any extra expenditure would be worth while.

If we consider expenditure, it may not be that much greater than some of the hand-to-mouth schemes that we now have. The youth opportunities scheme this year will deal with 38,300 youngsters at a cost of £23.6 million. Next year, for 48,000 young people, the anticipated cost is £32.6 million. Even in these inflationary days, that is a considerable sum of money. Many of the young people who are unable to obtain a job will be in receipt of supplementary benefit. It is a strong criticism of the Government that many will have to wait an inordinate period from the time they leave school—sometimes before the end of June—to 1 September when they can receive benefit. This does not take account of the school leaving periods in Scotland.

Considerable injustice and unfairness is caused for young people. From September onwards those young people will be in receipt of supplementary benefit. Again, that is part of the maintenance available to them to enable them to continue their studies. We all know of the compromise that has been reached whereby unemployed young people can go to colleges of commerce to advance their general education on a part-time basis—three days out of five—so long as they are prepared to interrupt whatever course they are taking if a job comes along.

That may seem a harsh arrangement, but the sad fact is that there are so few jobs available for young people that they can, to some extent at any rate, pursue the advancement of their general education through attendance at these colleges of education. That is by exemption, by discretion, where the Departments of Employment and Health and Social Services have agreed that there are social advantages in young people receiving education or training instead of standing around on street corners without anything to do.

My new clause endeavours to breathe fresh life into the 1980 Act. It recognises that there is no prospect at present of junior colleges being established. I wish that that were not so, but perhaps it would cause a degree of confusion and consternation within the tertiary sector anyway. There are colleges within the tertiary sector which are full and others with many vacant places which they would like to fill. Perhaps it would be tempting the hon. Members for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) and Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) into life again, but it may be one of the more useful ways of extending the colleges of education.

Apart from the colleges of education that are to be shut, there are other colleges of education which have spare places and which could be used for this purpose, never mind colleges of technology and commerce and the universities, although in many cases universities cater for students with higher qualifications than those for whom the new clause is intended. As, no doubt, the hon. Member for Cathcart has in mind, students who start at colleges of commerce or the lower institutions and business colleges can progress by getting the basic qualifications, taking their highers, and then go to university, although perhaps at a more mature age than those of their contemporaries who stayed at school.

The case in principle for further education of this kind is well established. The new clause deals with the two circumstances that I have described. First, it makes it compulsory for all employers of young people in the 16 to 18 years age group to make provision for such young persons to spend one day each working week at established colleges to take courses relevant to the skills required in their work and where necessary, to advance their general education". The second leg of the new clause is that Where a young person between the ages of 16 and 18 has been registered as unemployed for a period of three months continuously, the education authority shall in consulation with the Manpower Services Commission, make provision for such young persons to attend established colleges for at least one day per week to take courses which will offer vocational training and advance their general education. One has always to balance the need for a better vocational training with the need for a better general education. Frequently, one cannot have vocational training and other advanced training unless the general educational standards are also improved.

The cost that is involved will not necessarily break the Exchequer. At a time of high youth unemployment, the new clause is a useful proposal. Young people who are deprived of opportunities should be given the chance to better themselves and to use the facilities which already exist in colleges. The CBI and the STUC have said at various times that there is a desperate need to improve education at this level. It is useful, even at this abnormally late—or early—hour, to have a debate on post-school education. It is perhaps the start of a number of debates. One is due to take place soon in the Scottish Grand Committee. However, we did not debate the matter in Standing Committee. I am glad, therefore, that we now have an opportunity to consider this sector of education. The new clause provides the House with an opportunity to show good will.

The new clause also gives an opportunity to show political will in achieving what generations since 1945 have endeavoured to do—namely, to provide our young people with an extended education after leaving school.

3.15 am
Mr. Maxton

One of the advantages of being here at this late, or early, hour is that in the Tea Room one can obtain this morning's newspapers. All the tabloid papers contain an advertisement by the Manpower Services Commission, a Government body, financed with Government funds. As it still exists, one must assume that the Government support it.

The advertisement contains a catching phrase which sums up the new clause. It says: If we don't plant acorns, we won't get oaks. That sums up the philosophy of the new clause. The advertisement contains comments from both sides of industry. Terry Duffy, the president of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers—I am never sure on which side he is—states: We all need to make a commitment to training if we're going to compete in the modern world. Sir Terence Beckett, director general of the CBI, not a great friend of the Prime Minister, but a person of influence in industry, says: The CBI is totally committed to the Youth Opportunities Programme. Ron Saunders, manager of Aston Villa football club says: Let's give Britain's teenagers a sporting chance. John Welsh, of W. A. Davies (Furnishings) Ltd., Bristol says: Clearly, you have to provide experience and training. Statements are made by Lord Weinstock, Joe Gormley and Len Murray, who say that there is a need to provide much more opportunity and training for our young people.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) for tabling the new clause. I tabled a similar clause in Committee, but because of the need to make progress I withdrew it. I did not re-introduce it on Report because I knew that there was to be a debate in the Scottish Grand Committee on the issue.

I accept the principle behind the clause, but I have some reservations about its wording. The Education (Scotland) Act 1945 is not as rigid as the new clause. That Act allows training to take place one day a week, in blocks of a fortnight or in a continuous block. It allows more flexibility.

We must train more young people. One of the causes of Britain's economic decline is that for too long we have trained too few youngsters compared with our major industrial competitors. We cannot blame that on Governments of either complexion in recent times. It goes way back to what is loosely termed the second industrial revolution, which began in the 1890s with the development of electrical power, new processes in steel and the process of what is sometimes called the scientific as opposed to the technical revolution.

In 1900 the German Empire trained about 3,000 chemical engineers in its universitites, while in Britain only 300 science graduates left the universities. Matters have improved dramatically since 1900, but Britain continues to lag behind its major competitors in providing sufficient opportunities for youngsters to obtain the necessary skills. Britain is still failing in that process Arguably, during the past two years matters have become worse rather than better. A larger number of youngsters are unemployed. They are not receiving any training in the vital years after they leave school.

The advertisement to which I referred dealt with the youth opportunities programme. I agree with the hon. Member for Dundee, East that that programme, while providing useful work experience courses—especially in the training workshops in Scotland, which are not unique, but are more fully developed than they are elsewhere—does not solve the problem of the number of youngsters who do not receive training. Too many of the schemes provide an element of work experience but without any continuation into apprenticeships, full-time or even part-time courses in further education colleges, or other forms of post-school education.

It is disastrous for both the future of our youngsters and the future of our economy that, at a time when the Government are increasing the amount of money within the Manpower Services Commission for the special programmes division, which deals with the youth opportunities programme, they are dramatically cutting the money for the training division. The Select Committee on Scottish Affairs has investigated youth unemployment and training. It has taken evidence from a series of witnesses from the industrial training boards. Their evidence, both written and oral, shows that the number of apprentices in Scottish industry has dropped dramatically and will continue to do so.

Fewer and fewer youngsters will be taking apprenticeship courses to help them to obtain the skills required if ever the economy bottoms out and begins to lift off again. We doubt whether there will be the skilled manpower within our economy to take full advantage of an upturn. The House should be concerned about that.

Although one day a week spent in training may be only a partial answer, it is one way forward. We must have not just a hotchpotch of youth opportunity schemes, but a genuine planned approach towards developing the skills of a much larger number of youngsters. The hon. Member for Dundee, East referred to finance. I think that his assessment is right. It would not cost the Government much more to have youngsters in training than to have them on youth opportunity programmes or on supplementary benefit. It might cost slightly more to provide them with training but the money would be better used than at present.

There is spare capacity within the post-school education system. There is capacity in the colleges of education in terms of buildings and staff to provide part of the programme of training youngsters that is needed. When I referred to universities from a sedentary position while the hon. Gentleman was speaking, he said that they were about people with higher skills and higher qualifications. That is true, but there are many who would argue that much of the physical capacity of universities is under-used in the context of a 12-month year instead of the eight-month or seven-month year that is worked by the students.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clarifying his argument. If the cuts in the universities take effect, even more space will be available that would have been used for training students.

Mr. Maxton

The hon. Gentleman is correct.

The universities should be used to the full for the purpose for which they were designed. However, we could use the physical facilities of the universities and possibly even some of the staff. There are many university staff who run non-vocational courses through various institutions such as the Workers' Educational Association. Their capacities could be used to provide such courses for others and to provide also vocational courses. They provide engineering and business courses and many other such courses. They would have to drop down a level, but that would not be too difficult.

Further education colleges are being strained to some extent. They are not being given extra money and they are increasingly being given extra burdens. That seems to be the way in which the Government operate. They ask people to do more but they are not prepared to give them the money to enable the work to be done properly. That has happened in the FE colleges.

There is a further area of which the new clause would not take account—the schools themselves. The same comment may be made about universities. If we are moving into a period where secondary school rolls are dropping and where there may be some redundancies among teachers, some of the capacity that is in the schools should be used for post-school students. I accept that there are some psychological barriers. Many of those who leave school at 16 years with no qualifications would not wish to stay in that building or even to go to another school. It would require some imagination to deal with that problem by ensuring that those students were treated differently and were treated as post-school students, as adults and not as schoolchildren. There is spare capacity in that sector that could be used for the training of young people.

That is a project that would have to be treated with imagination and flexibility. We must consider the capacity that is available in education as a whole and ensure that we use it to the best advantage. That is not happening. The Government are not using imaginatively the capacity in the education system. The opposite could be said to be true. They have closed colleges of education. They will close secondary schools where it becomes necessary. They are giving the local authorities power in the Bill to be able to do that.

3.30 am

The Government are not assessing our capacity, asking what are our problems, what needs to be done in education and how we can ensure that we spend the same sums of money. Although we may not save as much, we shall not be spending more. We accept that there will be falling school rolls and that there will be spare money in the system. We should use that money to provide better facilities, particularly for the 16 to 18-year-olds and those who leave school with no form of qualification.

It is always said "It is fine to provide skills and more education for the youngsters aged from 16 to 18 years, but are not we training them for unemployment? What is the purpose of giving them the training and skills and a more general education if, at the end of the day, they will still be unemployed?"

I should like to make two points on that argument. First, a youngster with some skills who has been through the process of training has developed his education further than at school. Even if he does not get a job immediately, he feels better equipped to deal with life than if he had had no training. He at least can feel that when matters improve he will have a better chance of getting a job than the youngster who has had no training. He is at an advantage.

Perhaps there will be frustration because that person has the skills but cannot use them. I hope that the next Labour Government will look at how those skills could be used through public works programmes or by greater investment in the public sector. I accept that there may be frustration, but I do not believe that it is as great as the frustration in youngsters who are unemployed and have no skills. They feel a sense of hopelessness, which leads to much social distress in our society. We should all be concerned about that.

My second argument is that when we educate people—sometimes this is easily forgotten—in particular skills or when we give them a general training for broad skills, we are training them not for the period between 18 and 19 years of age or 18 and 20 years of age, but in skills which we hope they will be able to use, possibly adapted. We might have to retrain them and readapt those skills until they retire at the age of 65. I hope that by the time today's youngsters reach that age the retirement age will be considerably lower.

The individual and society will be using those skills. We hope that they will use those skills, if not immediately, at least later on when society again needs them. Therefore, we must consider the matter not just from the short-term aspect of the person's employment but from the longer-term aspect.

There is also a demographic argument. I accept that the fall in school rolls in secondary schools is dramatic. There are many secondary schools in my constituency in which it is likely that over the next few years the roll will be almost half what it was at its peak a couple of years ago. If that happens there will come a point from 1985 onwards when the consequences of that drop in the secondary school rolls will emerge in the labour market. Therefore, fewer youngsters will be able to be trained at university or to develop secondary skills in management and apprenticeships.

After 1984, after we win the election, the economy will pick up and boom, but we may have far fewer youngsters capable of being trained. If we do not train today's youngsters, we shall have people between the ages of 20 and 30 without skills, who will have become accustomed to unemployment and who will find it difficult to adapt to the work ethos, and not enough youngsters leaving school to be trained in the necessary skills. We must train today's youngsters for tomorrow. If we fail, we shall fail not only the youngsters as individuals—and we offer many of them a dreadful prospect today—but our economy and future as a nation.

We need skilled people, with the ability to retrain and retrain again. Without them, it is difficult to see how our economy will pick up. Our competitors do it much better than we do. Unless we train our youngsters and use their capacity to develop their skills, our economic future is not rosy. If we start with the general principle in the clause and carry it through, we have hope for the future.

Mr. Craigen

I have not seen today's newspaper, so I have not read about the oak trees growing, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) spoke, I reflected that the Government seem intent on cutting trees down when they are not selling them off as Forestry Commission assets.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) has raised vital issues concerning post-school education. We have heard about colleges of education and universities, but Scottish colleges of further education have long been the stepchildren of Scottish tertiary education. Usually those with most to say about how the sector should be run have had least experience of it as students, teachers, industrialists or trade unionists.

I am concerned that the Government will not take advantage of the demographic changes that have been working their way through primary and secondary schools and are about to hit universities and colleges of further education. Over the next decade we shall see a fairly dramatic drop in the number of school leavers. By 1993–94 it will be about 30,000 per annum. The decrease gives the Government a unique opportunity to make the most of colleges of further education. If the trends in primary and secondary school are any indication, some colleges of further education will be closing. As the hon. Member for Dundee, East rightly said, we shall be talking not about new colleges and additional provision but about the closure of existing colleges. With rising unemployment, we are already witnessing more spare capacity in existing colleges in Scotland. The Government will have to address themselves seriously to this matter.

The Minister will know that one secondary school in my constituency is working towards the creation of a community school concept. It rightly senses a need to bring the local community into the activities of the secondary school. There may well be the prospect of making more use of secondary school accommodation in that way, but there are deep-seated obstacles in the way of that, not just in the attitudes of youngsters who once they leave school do not want to go back into the same environment, but in the existing career structure of the teaching profession, in which further education is different from secondary education in terms of both career outlets and salary structure.

The Under-Secretary is uniquely placed in that he is responsible for industry and employment as well as education in Scotland. He should therefore be aware of the problems arising on the industrial front and of the substantial drop in the number of apprenticeships over the past two or three years. This is having a heavy impact in areas such as Clydeside, where there has been a traditional reliance upon apprenticeships as the method by which many of our young boys, particularly, have entered permanent employment and have gained training in the process.

Industrial training boards, such as the engineering and construction boards, have done their best to create additional training places through their training awards scheme. Instead of acting as foster parents, however, the boards are frequently obliged to act as ambulance attendants. With the growing number of redundancies in our manufacturing industries, I know from discussions with board officials that they are spending more time finding alternative employment for boys, and sometimes girls, who are displaced when a firm closes down.

One of the weaknesses of post-school vocational training in this country has been in the clerical and commercial sector and in the service sector. We have been very good on the craft side, but we have not been so good in the clerical, commercial and service occupations.

One major area of difficulty where the Government will have to grasp the nettle is in the cost to employers of initial training. Although he did not say much about it, I am sure that the hon. Member for Dundee, East would acknowledge this in terms of his new clause. The problem of the cost of initial training will have to be overcome.

Reference has been made to the German system. I shall not dwell long on that. Suffice it to say that the dual system that operates in the Federal Republic of Germany involves employers, employees and education authorities in a way that is less familiar in this country. It does so through the local chambers of commerce and trade.

3.45 am

The Under-Secretary, wearing his industrial hat, will know that there is a far greater readiness by employers in the Federal Republic of Germany than there is in this country to accept their training responsibilities. Although I did not serve on the Committee that considered the Bill, I was a member of the Committee on the Employment and Training Bill. That led me to the conclusion that, on the one hand, the Government were seeking to dismantle the industrial training system and, on the other, that they were not clear about the alternatives that should be put forward to replace it.

None the less, the German situation ensures that only about one in 10 school leavers goes into unskilled labour without the opportunity of some form of vocational training. Incidentally, we should also take into account the range of occupations that have systematic training, where a federal body sets the entry requirements, lays down the courses to be followed and is involved in the certification process. They range over a far wider area of occupation, and I believe that about 450 occupations are recognised for traineeships.

New clause 6 is also concerned with the growing number of youngsters who do not get employment. It is therefore academic to them whether day release, block release or any other kind of release is available. Over the past decade there has been a trebling in the number of young school leavers out of work. At the beginning of that decade, in the 1970s, there was also the raising of the school leaving age, which removed a whole year's output from the unemployment figures. That fact should also be borne in mind.

The problem of youth unemployment has grown. The most serious aspect has been the length of time for which many young people are now out of a job. Not only have the numbers grown, but so has the length of time spent on the dole.

I want to refer briefly to the youth opportunities programme. Figures have been publicly stated to the Select Committee on Employment, of which I am a member, indicating the extent to which job substitution is growing. I readily admit that the programme creates job opportunities for youngsters. However, none other than the Secretary of State for Employment has conceded that about one in five of all places on it effectively displaces or substitutes for permanent employment. I believe that the figure is about one in three in respect of the work experience on employers premises element of the YOP.

I have already mentioned the training boards scheme. I believe that about 16,500 young people in Scotland have benefited from that scheme in recent years. I think I am also right in saying that Scotland's share in the expansion of the YOP for 1981–82 represents about one-sixth of the provision for Great Britain as a whole and that we shall have about 67,000 young people in Scotland on a YOP in 1981–82. That is a very large percentage of the number of school leavers in Scotland. It is an alarming percentage, because it means that that number of young people are not gaining and experiencing the status, confidence and other things that go with the first job that one gets when one leaves school.

That is very important when young people leave school, particularly for those youngsters who have not been particularly happy at school. I often think that they are like moths to a flame. The youngsters who are not qualified, who have had most difficulty in school, are the very people who want to get out of school as quickly as they can, but they are the most vulnerable in an adverse labour market.

The Minister might care to comment on a matter that I have raised in a parliamentary question, namely, the attempt by Strathclyde region to try to develop some kind of college-based group work experience scheme. Recently Mr. Robert MacDonald, the principal careers officer for Strathclyde, expanded on how, for example, with the Springburn college of engineering, which happens to be in a constituency adjacent to mine, there was an attempt to have a one-year sandwich-based course, involving the college and work experience on employers' premises, as a kind of bridge towards permanent employment.

The Minister must bear in mind that the larger percentage of firms in Scotland could be classified as small firms, and therefore he must bear in mind the needs of those firms in terms of training assistance and provision. As an indication of the number of youngsters likely to take part in these vocational preparation schemes, where the Scottish Education Department and the Manpower Services Commission are involved, I see that grants are to be made available to employers for day release in 1981–82 for about 450 to 500 places and in 1983–84 for 2,000 places. These are just drops in the bucket. The Minister must explain why such a mean approach is being adopted.

Whilst I might quibble with certain aspects of the new clause and the way in which it is drafted, I have no doubt that if the Government really mean to do anything about post-school vocational education, and the problems of the 16 to 19 age group in particular, they will have to assist and encourage employers and permit young people to get the advantages of post-school training. In respect of the YOP, they will have to make more positive provision for a training element within what is essentially a transitional means to try to keep 67,000 young people in Scotland off the dole in 1981–82.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)

I have decided that it is time I uttered a few words on this important subject of education. I am not the least inhibited because I am surrounded by experts on the subject. I see the formidable documentation that my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) has. I shudder to think how long we might be going on discussing education. I confess that I am not at my best at this time in the morning. I suspect, looking at the Minister, that neither is he. I hope that he will spare a few minutes to reply to some of my brief points.

We are indebted to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) for raising the subject, although I regret that some of my hon. Friends have spoken at such length on other subjects which are not of such importance in the current scene. Whatever reason or explanation is given for the subject not being adequately discussed in Committee, a short debate, even at this time in the morning, is justified. Will the Minister convey to his right hon. Friend that injustice is being done to school leavers in Scotland over their supplementary benefit? Everyone knows that it is related to further education. All these matters are interrelated, such as maintenance allowances, bursaries and the other paraphernalia of modern society. It is unfortunate if there is an added disincentive to youngsters to leave school before they have taken examinations because it is their only chance of receiving supplementary benefit at an earlier date.

The Government should consider that, because of the different school leaving dates in Scotland. That is not a Scottish nationalist argument—though that party can make arguments out of anything. This is a real argument for a change.

I am not particularly knowledgeable about this matter. My hon. Friend has spoken with authority of his experience and his career plus the interest that he has shown since he came to the House. I am saying this because of problems that have arisen in my constituency and, I assume, in many other areas. The Minister visited two schools in Eastbourne six months ago and he knows the problem that concerns me.

I shall not go on at length about the failure of the Government's economic policies and therefore the increase in unemployment, but the Government need to stir themselves. It is not enough constantly to be saying "It is an increase in public expenditure. We cannot look at it." The Government will be compelled to look at some of these things, unless they want serious social unrest. It is getting worse. The mood in the country, especially among young people, is becoming sharply cynical, disillusioned and even bitter. I do not know that any of us have all the answers to the problems that face us, but the Government should show more energy in attending to the problems of young people.

There is the opportunity. We have seen an increase in unemployment, falling rolls and, therefore, spare capacity in schools, colleges and, presumably, universities. There are more teachers than ever and there is recognition that there should be more for vocational training or general education for all age groups, including the elderly. The Minister may also want to pay tribute to the recent report by Age Concern dealing with the problems of pre- and post-retirement.

The Government lack urgency. I am not making a general attack on them, though I condemn their overall economic policies, but because of the opportunities that are being created, for whatever reason, now is the time for fresh thinking about the whole problem of post-school education.

4 am

What is the machinery for consultation between the Government, COSLA and the teaching organisations about this matter? There is no proposal before any of the organisations. Do the Government foresee any expansion in further education? Will it be in colleges or will it be achieved by using surplus school capacity? Would that involve possible capital expenditure on making schools less like the places that have clearly not appealed to many young people?

These are pertinent questions. Even if the Government have not made up their minds on them, they should at least be able to give an indication of how they see matters developing over the next year or two.

Mr. Harry Ewing

I shall follow the good example of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown) and be brief. I take up where he left off by saying that there was machinery for consultation between the Government and the education authorities, but, unfortunately, in the Government's quest for the abolition of quangos, one of the first so-called quangos to be abolished was the schools-industry liaison committee at national level. I accept that the schools-industry liaison committees at local level have been retained. I well remember that in the Scottish Grand Committee we warned the Minister that he was taking a dangerous step, that there was no need to abolish the committee. It was particularly unfortunate that he went ahead with the abolition of the very machinery that my hon. Friend showed we need today.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) is owed a debt of gratitude by the House for raising this important subject, albeit at an early hour in the morning. I intend to be brief, because my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen), in an excellent speech, covered all the points that required to be covered. However, I have a responsibility to express the Opposition's view about the clause. We welcome the general principle that the hon. Gentleman rightly highlighted, but we share the reservations expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill, and to a lesser extent by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton), about the wording of the clause and the possibility of its implementation.

We have heard contributions from educationists, an expression that I use not in a derogatory sense but in a collective sense. My hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill had some background in education before he came to the House—

Mr. Craigen

Only briefly. I am not an educationist.

Mr. Ewing

Nevertheless, my hon. Friend had some education experience. My hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart has spent all his working life in education.

It was noticeable that all those who contributed to the debate, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Provan, considered that the only possibility open to us was to take the youngsters to the education, into the colleges that the hon. Member for Dundee, East suggests should be set up. Another possibility is to take the education to the youngsters in the workplace or wherever they are to be found.

One reason, apart from the Government's economic policy, why these youngsters have no job is that the education system has failed them. It is a problem with which the House has to grapple. The matter should not be viewed in the restrictive sense of taking the youngster to the college, although that approach has merit. Hon. Members should also examine the possibility of taking education to youngsters in the workplace or wherever they may be found.

A question mark hangs over the suggestion in the new clause that a young person should be released for one day each week. There are strong reservations among educationists in further education colleges about the one-day-a-week approach. The best approach, backed by the Scottish Trades Union Congress, is block release, which enables youngsters to spend, say, a complete month on education. I enter only the caveat about examining the possibility of taking education to the youngster rather than the youngster to education.

An official Opposition spokesman is sometimes allowed the latitude of making a personal point. For some time I have been travelling along the road of believing that the apprenticeship training scheme, as known through the years, is rapidly beginning to outlive its usefulness. We should ask ourselves what happens to boys and girls on leaving school. Either they seek and find an apprenticeship or they register as unemployed. Neither should happen as we move into the middle of the 1980s. With the reducing number of children leaving school and coming on to the employment register, there is an opportunity for a fresh approach. Instead of seeking apprenticeship or registering as unemployed, these young people could register for training. This would be considered as a continuation of education but need not take place in the same establishment. I would favour using the big industrial firms in Scotland—many are to be found in my constituency—for training.

Also in my constituency, standing about 90 per cent. idle, is the workshop of 26 Command Royal Engineers. Yet it contains people who are experts in the crafts for which they have trained. Those people could contribute to the training of youngsters. The whole issue needs to be examined.

I hope that I have not given the impression to the hon. Member for Dundee, East that I am trying to kill off his new clause by damning it with faint praise. However, I doubt whether his proposition would meet the points and objectives that he wishes to achieve, which we share. For those reasons I hope that he will not push the new clause to a vote, but we are in his debt for having brought this issue before the House, albeit at such an early hour in the morning.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

I have listened to the comments made by the hon. Members for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) and for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) and by others. There is much common ground among hon. Members. I, too, am grateful to the hon. Member for Dundee, East for having raised this matter. I have one main objection to his proposition. However, like the hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth, I feel that in itself it does not qualify my support for the principle that has been opened up for discussion.

The hon. Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth spoke about encouraging training rather than apprenticeships. We must alter our sights. The term "apprentice" is obsolete. We should talk about traineeships or use some other similar expression. I say that for several reasons, not least because modern industry is changing. Although there are fewer apprenticeships in a recession, that does not account for even half of our problems. As the hon. Gentleman will know, in Dundee, for example, fewer industries require the apprenticeships, particularly in engineering, that were the foundation of Scottish industry until a decade or so ago.

Industries, particularly the newer ones, have a demand for skills that is not met by the old apprenticeships. Often that demand is met by a scheme that the company has organised—perhaps in conjunction with the local college of further education—which is tailor made to that company or industry. Therefore, there is much common cause and interest between us on everything that has been said, including the comments made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen).

However, I part company with the new clause on the question of compulsion. The hon. Member for Maryhill emphasised that to impose on all employers a duty to release their young employees for a period in every week for further education or vocational training would impose a very heavy burden on industry. In talking about 16 to 18-year-olds we must remember that the more we increase the cost of employment of that age group the more we decrease their job prospects. Most hon. Members will have come across that problem in their constituencies and elsewhere.

Mr. Foulkes

The Minister is being positive in responding to the debate. I know that he feels strongly about the subject. Representations have been made by his Back-Bench colleagues in favour of some extension of an apprenticeship and training scheme. He says that he is not in favour of compulsion. How will the Government take up this matter? Instead of giving an expression of sympathy, will the hon. Gentleman let us know what action is to be taken?

Mr. Fletcher

As often happens when one gives way to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes), if he had held on he might have heard something of what we have in mind.

4.15 am

I was coming to the proposition of compulsory attendance at further education colleges. I do not believe that that would be beneficial. Compulsory education stops at 16, and so it should. Thereafter people should be volunteers, whether for further education or some other kind of training. We should give people every encouragement, but I do not think that compulsory attendance at FE colleges would be helpful. It would cause all sorts of bureaucratic problems in trying to ensure that young adults turned up for school. Often such youngsters will have been the least successful at school and would probably be the ones who would react most strongly to such an idea, having thrown off the shackles of school and, perhaps, beginning to mature.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

In the Education (Scotland) Act 1945 there was a formula of compulsion, although I would sympathise with the idea of encouragement and of making it more attractive to young people to go of their own volition. That may cost more money, but, if it is a necessary way of doing it, I would not have any objection.

Mr. Fletcher

That is the best way to do this. The important thing is to ensure that courses for further education and vocational training are relevant to the needs of young people and are acceptable to them and their employers or prospective employers.

We recognise the need to improve the education and training of young people. The House knows that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment announced at the end of last year the expansion of unified vocational preparation schemes over the next three years for those who are in jobs but are given little or no systematic training or further education. There was also the announcement that the youth opportunites programme was to be expanded and the quality of training and education within that programme improved.

These are objectives that the Government have introduced, not as some airy-fairy scheme, but as proposals that have been backed up with considerable increases in resources to deal with the number of youngsters who have a need for training of this kind. In addition, the Government and the MSC have recently published the consultation document "The New Training Initiative", under which one of our main objectives is to improve the vocational education and training of young people.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has also been advancing the idea of the Open Tech. I have seen some examples of this in other countries, particularly the United States. I have seen young people in a small factory using closed circuit television linked to a local college, whereby they were receiving formal training related to their job or skill.

Mr. Craigen

In the light of what the Minister is saying about the Open Tech, I am a little disappointed that in the consultation document there are no "fingerprints" of the Secretary of State for Scotland, or the Secretary of State for Wales, for that matter. This subject is left to the Secretaries of State for Employment and Education and Science. I hope that there will be an input by the Scottish Office into this development. While I accept the tempering of the Minister's remarks about compulsory attendance as against voluntary attendance, and while I also accept that the concept of the time-served apprentice is on the way out, may I ask whether the Under-Secretary agrees that if the concept of standard tested traineeships is to come in there will need to be some element, if not of compulsion, at least of recognised training?

Mr. Fletcher

I quibble about compulsion, because the people who enter the schemes must be volunteers. Standards must be set, preferably national standards, to measure the standards of their achievements as a result of the training they receive. We do not want an automatic system whereby they qualify after serving for three or four years.

There is another factor that I had intended to mention earler. The age barrier is absurd. One can become an apprentice at 16 or 17 years of age, but if one is 26, 27 or older and needs to change one's occupation, one is debarred at present because of this old-fashioned and obsolete practice. That, too, has to be taken into account.

I must point out to the hon Member for Maryhill that the Scottish Office has been much involved in these schemes, not least in the development of the Open Tech. If my right hon. Friend's name is not stamped on the document that is perhaps an error of presentation. We have been closely involved in the idea and I am particulary interested in these and other developments of their kind.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East mentioned the initiative regarding the Council for Tertiary Education, which was set up by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan). All that we had to do was to agree the representation, the members, and push the button. The groundwork was done by the right hon. Gentleman. Later this year we look forward to receiving the important report on tertiary education in Scotland. In some respects there is lack of organisation and unnecessary duplication of the efforts made in this connection.

I am not being complacent when I say that a lot is going on, because the challenge is great. The greatest challenge is not in setting up committees and producing new ideas and documents, whether it is the Open Tech or the tertiary council. It lies in the rigidity in the whole of education, both school and further education. More than a year ago we issued a document about the 16 to 19-year-olds for discussion and comment. An easier interchange between school and FE college is clearly desirable. Some children under 16 years may be more comfortable out of school and in a further education college. That frightens teachers' organisations, which see the already declining rolls and are frightened of losing more of their customers—if I may use that expression. More co-operation and flexibility are needed in local authorities and among teachers and lecturers if worthwhile progress is to be made.

I come back to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown) and the matter of supplementary benefit in Scotland because of the school leaving dates. There may be a problem when children leave school before they are 16. I think that in Scotland they can leave school at 15 years 8 months. The benefits cannot be collected until the person is 16. However, I do not want to depend too much on my memory at this hour of the morning, so I shall write to the hon. Gentleman on the matter.

The hon. Member asked what fresh thinking there had been on further education. I have illustrated the direction in which the Government and most people wish to move. There is considerable agreement about what needs to be done. I repeat that the Government have made and are making considerable resources available for this purpose.

We tend to think that each new project requires new facilities. There are many facilities in further education colleges, training centres and universities. When I am told that there is a shortage of places or opportunities, I wonder how facilities are being used at weekends and in the evenings. There is a population bulge. If we can offer young unemployed people only some night school or weekend facilities in a training centre or company engineering workshop, we must be flexible enough to do that. The more use that we make of facilities the more readily we shall tackle the problems.

Mr. Robert Hughes

The Minister has touched on a key issue—flexibility in the use of facilities. I warn him that I shall be writing to him today about the Hall, Russell training school in Aberdeen, which, because of the drastic fall in the number of apprentices who can be taken on, is likely to close. Having put up a scheme for training with the agreement of Grampian regional council, the Aberdeen trades council and the local engineering unions, it has been told that it cannot provide the training since it does not meet the criteria of the youth opportunities programme.

Mr. Fletcher

I shall be delighted to hear from the hon. Gentleman on that subject. I shall take up the matter with the MSC. What worries the MSC is that it is training apprentices whom the industry would normally train and it has to ensure that it is not using funds that industry might use. Some companies have good training facilities, but they are training fewer engineering or other apprentices, and not only because of the recession. One might have to knock a few heads together to try to achieve a sensible organisation.

Mr. Bill Walker

We should look carefully at Ministry of Defence facilities, because they are underused. That calls for more than knocking heads together. It calls for bringing together parties with entrenched interests which do not always operate in the best interests of the nation.

Mr. Fletcher

I accept that the Ministry of Defence has some splendid facilities. I frightened off a group of lecturers recently when I said that many good instructors in the Services are accustomed to taking in raw recruits with no technical aptitude. Because of the simple and drilled way in which the Services train people, they are capable of doing an excellent job with youngsters. I would not debar the use of Service personnel, whether on the active list or retired, from helping to train youngsters in a skill. Even at YOP's roughest level youngsters trained under that scheme have an improved chance of employment.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to debate this subject. I hope that the new clause will not be pressed to a Division. The needs are recognised without altering legislation.

4.30 am
Mr. Ernie Ross

My hon. Friends and I welcome the opportunity to discuss training, especially for youngsters. I have not worked in industry for two years, and I am amazed at what has happened during that time. From my contacts in Dundee, it does not appear that apprenticeships are obsolete. Many youngsters are seeking apprenticeships, but there are not as many available. If we lose Robb Caledon in Dundee, we shall lose 100 apprenticeships that would have been available to youngsters in Dundee.

From my experience as a time-served marine engineer, I do not see any mad rush to move away from the apprenticeship scheme. Obviously I welcome all the progressive changes that have taken place. As an engineer, I would argue for the continuing need for apprenticeships in that industry, and no more so than at this time. The unified vocational preparation scheme is supported by the Labour Party. It has given youngsters, especially in the distributive trades, training and association with youngsters from other small employers, which they would not have had if the scheme had not been brought into being.

I served my apprenticeship 20 years ago in the Robb Caledon shipyard in Dundee. It was a five-year structured apprenticeship which involved training in the skills of marine engineering and attendance at technical college or some other college at least one day a week to gain certification to complement the training received on the job itself. Today, more and more firms in industry are setting out to provide job training for their apprentices. But that is still an apprenticeship. I would argue for a scheme for most firms based on the module system. I accept that a number of firms in Dundee could not, by themselves, introduce a module scheme. Therefore, such organisations as the Dundee engineering training group are essential. I hope that the Minister will take on board the need to continue to support that group. It offers training for smaller firms that cannot provide apprenticeships.

During my period as the convener of the staff unions at Timex we introduced a technicians' course suited to the changing needs, skills and technology of Timex. It allowed apprentices undergoing module training to gain experience in the staff engineering aspects of the business, such as product engineering, process engineering and quality control engineering. They were also given commercial training so that they could develop into the new technicians needed to take advantage of the new ventures that Timex, through the initiative of both management and work force, had branched into, especially the Nimslo and the Sinclair products.

Timex, together with many other firms, has begun commercial training for production and administratie staff. That fills a gap for the 16 to 18-year olds who are taken on as office juniors or service girls but do not receive any training until they reach the age of 18 and begin work as a typist or clerk. These are all features that are welcome.

I welcome the debate. I support the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson). The hon. Gentleman's new clause is similar to one that was tabled but not moved by my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) and South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes). I am sorry that they felt unable to move their clause. It would have been better suited to the debate and there might have been some agreement on both sides of the House.

The Education (Scotland) Act 1945 stated that compulsory part-time education and training should be provided for all post-school children on a date appointed by the Secretary of State. We are now 36 years on from that Act and that day has not yet been named by a Secretary of State. My hon. Friends would have been congratulated on taking the Act off the shelf and specifying a date for the introduction of the scheme. It was to have been 1 January 1982. They would have been especially congratulated on taking such action at a time when the resources represented by our young people are being tragically wasted. I think that the introduction of their new clause would have been welcomed.

Britain lags far behind other countries in providing training. In Germany, 85 per cent. of those who leave school at the statutory leaving age receive apprentice training. In France, industry is obliged to spend money on the compulsory training of young people and on adults in need of retraining. In Sweden, 85 per cent. of school leavers in the 16 to 18 age group have access to sixth form comprehensive colleges offering a wide range of training and education.

We all wish to see a high-technolgy, high-wage-earning economy developed in the last 20 years of the twentieth century. We wish to lay the foundation of economic security for all our young people. The enactment of part of the 1945 Act would have directed us down that road and given young people far greater opportunities than now exist. That Act was intended to provide for the compulsory part-time education of 16 to 18-year-olds and the right to the equivalent of two years of day release.

Last November the Secretary of State for Employment announced details of measures to help school leavers by expanding the youth opportunities programme and asking the Manpower Services Commission to offer a suitable opportunity to unemployed school leavers by Christmas rather than the following Easter. There were also promises that the MSC would be asked to find a suitable opportunity within three months for any 16 or 17-year-old registered as unemployed for three months and that more emphasis would be placed on the young person who had completed a course or scheme within the programme, and still had no job, by giving him the chance to progress to another course or scheme.

The Opposition welcome those measures, but we still regard them as inadequate. They represent an inadequate attempt to tackle the terrible problem of youth unemployment. However, the Secretary of State said that the emphasis of the programme would not only increasingly be placed on good quality training for work, but that two-thirds of the places would provide work experience on employers' premises. As resources permit, we are trying to work towards a point where every 16 or 17-year-old not in education or a job will be assured of vocational preparation lasting, as necessary, up to his or her eighteenth birthday.

When placed alongside the intentions of the 1945 Act, these measures are puny. They are puny when set against the terrible tragedy of young people leaving school full of hope and wishing to make a contribution. They looked forward to making a contribution to society, which they hoped would welcome them into a new environment and ask them to make a contribution. They have found that all that we can offer them is the dole queue. Welcome as they are, the measures are puny when placed alongside the problem facing young people leaving school today.

In its submission the Educational Institute of Scotland said that while it welcomed the Government's commitment in principle to the aim of a comprehensive system it cannot be achieved within a reasonable time scale on a purely voluntary basis, and that a statutory system of comprehensive, part-time further education and vocational training for all 16–18s is imperative in order to enable this country to compete on equal terms with other advanced countries that have long enjoyed the advantage of such a system. British industry is in a mess. The television programme "Weekend World" made a programme which highlighted part of the problem facing British industry—indeed a good deal of the problem—of why we fail to match our competitors. The schools that produced the ruling classes fostered attitudes that industry was not for them and that their task was to join the Foreign Office, the legal profession or anything else but industry, which was in direct contrast to what happened on the Continent. The programme showed that those attitudes persist even today. A representative of Delta Capillary tried in vain to persuade those public school boys that they were needed in industry.

If those people are not prepared to help in the need to put Britain hack on its feet, there are plenty of people, such as the sons and daughters of working people and the young unemployed, who are prepared to help. I hope that we can give them something more than the Minister's efforts in his reply to the debate.

If there is one other area on which we must concentrate our energies, it is the need to encourage more young girls and women to take up more science-based industry. Dundee university recently ran a one-day seminar on how women could he encouraged to take up more science-based courses in university. It launched the first Scottish campaign to recruit more women into higher education. The initial conference was held on Wednesday 14 November. It was entitled "Women and Science". It was to be followed by a series of visits by University staff and students to local schools to encourage girls and their teachers to examine some of the reasons why women fail so conspicuously to achieve their educational career potential, and to find ways of overcoming inhibitions on their progress. Examples were given from the engineering faculty. The numbers of undergraduate and postgraduate women entering the faculty had never risen above four in any one year, whereas in 1977 the corresponding figure for men was 144.

Examples of sex typing in the teaching professions were also given: In 1974, women made up the whole full-time nursery school teaching staff; 88 per cent. of primary staff; 42 per cent. of secondary school staff; 35 per cent. of colleges of education staff; less than 20 per cent. of staff in Colleges and Central Institutions; 12 per cent. of staff in universities. In 1975 only 52 per cent. of primary school heads were women; 70 pet cent. of all promoted posts in secondary schools were filled by men; 97 per cent. of secondary school heads were men. Surely another task that must be taken on by the Government when discussing training is the need to encourage more and more women to achieve their potential by staying on at school and continuing to take up science-based courses at universities and colleges.

Those of us who have served our time in manufacturing industry understand what the advantages of a disciplined apprenticeship mean to young people. It is unacceptable that many of the young people who have left school will not have the benefit or be allowed to take advantage of the apprenticeship scheme. We wish to place on record the need for the Government to try to encourage even those firms that are perhaps finding it difficult at the moment to sustain their present levels of employment and to keep up the normal uptake of apprentices. Training in skills is vital if the country is to recover and compete for trade, if the recession bottoms out.

4.45 am

Over 200,000 16-year-olds leave school each year and take jobs where no further education or planned training is available, yet there are shortages of skilled labour throughout industry. Few, if any, other industrialised countries exclude such a large proportion of their labour force from training.

Mr. Bill Walker

Is the hon. Gentleman in favour of apprenticeships beyond the age acceptable to the engineering industry—say, up to the age of 30?

Mr. Ross

It is not whether I am in favour. I am not in the industry.

Mr. Walker

What is the hon. Gentleman's view?

Mr. Ross

People will need to be retrained on a number of occasions during their lives, but whether the retraining is in the form of apprenticeships depends on the industry.

Mr. Robert Hughes

The Engineering Industry Training Board put up a scheme for more flexibility in the age of entry to apprenticeships and other matters, but the employers' organisations in Scotland rejected it out of hand.

Mr. Ross

Hon. Members on both sides of the House say that apprenticeships are obsolete. It is difficult to encourage employers to pay the rate that a man aged 30 would expect. Employers have to make that jump and overcome the problem.

I served my time in a shipyard. During my apprenticeship we progressed from using rivets to join plates together to welded sections, built in a shed. Riveters and hodders-on-those who hold on at the opposite side to the riveter who is bashing the rivet, had to be retrained within that selective industry.

Mr. Foulkes

What about catchers?

Mr. Ross

Unfortunately, catchers were not a skilled trade. In Robb Caledon shipyard they were redeployed to other manual jobs. Hodders-on and riveters were retrained as welders. That was accepted by the boilermakers society, which in those days was not keen to give up what Government Members would regard as restrictive practices. The trade unions have shown that they can respond, but the management must also respond.

The British training system is based on employers training young people in their companies to meet their business requirements. Therefore, as business prospects and company profits fluctuate, so does the intake of trainees. The arrangement adopted by the Engineering Industry Training Board and other training boards exempts from levy all firms that train to meet their own requirements and totally exempts small firms.

Such a system is bound to create an overall shortage of trained labour, because employers are keen to increase their profit levels rather than to invest in training and to poach additional skilled labour from elsewhere rather than train labour for the benefit of other firms,. Secondly, small firms which are automatically excluded from levy, are probably not training at all, preferring to attract skilled workers from other employers.

It is not only the basic training that causes concern. The Finniston report on the engineering profession, published in January 1980, recognised the inadequacy of the existing training system and proposed a massive programme to educate and retrain employees of all ages and at all levels if the human skills and support required to implement and sustain new technologies were to match demand. The Finniston committee realised that this would mean active State involvement and an extensive budget on education and training. Directly contrary to the Government's policy of cuts in educational expenditure, the Finniston committee suggested that more public money must be pumped into schools and higher education to improve the provision and standards of teaching in mathematics, physics and engineering science subjects.

Had my hon. Friends the Members for South Ayrshire and Cathcart moved their new clause, I should have said that it was a long overdue measure to link education and industry, to train young people in vitally needed skills and to end the impression that education finishes when a young person leaves school for the last time. Most of all, it would have been a serious attempt to give our young people a far better start to adult life than exists at the moment.

As hon. Members on both sides have suggested, the new clause before us, while it has allowed us to have a debate, does not really meet the needs of the young people for whom we are all showing some concern tonight. Like other hon. Members, I hope that the hon. Member for Dundee, East will not press the new clause to a Division, although we must congratulate him on putting it down so that the debate could take place.

Mr. Foulkes

I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) is one of the hodders-on in the debate tonight. I join him in congratulating the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson). Thinking back to Aberdeen a few days ago, I am glad that he was able to get his teeth out of the tumbler this morning and to come and bare them at the Government.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West, I believe that the new clause is not sufficiently radical and does not go far enough. I understand, and am advised by my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, that we shall have other opportunities to discuss this subject in the near future, perhaps in a wider-ranging way.

A number of hon. Members have spoken about the co-ordination of apprenticeships, training, continuation in school, work experience and further education. If we are to have a co-ordinated system, it is important that the financial rewards received by young people should be equivalent. Some of the problems at present arise because it is financially more advantageous for them to go into some of the least rewarding areas from the point of view of education and training. It is also important to try to achieve equality of status of young people in the various courses and some equality of equipment and facilities available so that one or other is not seen to be more advantageous from those or other points of view.

The second of the three brief points that I wish to make is that in general we have too hierarchical a further and higher education system in Scotland. It is about time that there was a radical review. We shall not get it under the present Government, but the Labour Party is committed after the next election to achieving a much more radical reform of further education and some kind of comprehensive organisation of further education, just as we had a comprehensive organisation of secondary education. The administration of further and higher education will be at one level, young people will be remunerated at similar levels, irrespective of the type of higher or further education that they undertake, and one level of teachers' salaries will apply in higher and further education. Those are far more radical changes than we could ever expect from the present Government.

Thirdly, the Government, some Labour Members and some adult members of the community have un-derestimated the time bomb that is ticking away in regard to youth unemployment. We talk and talk, but I recently met some of those young people, and they are becoming frustrated and fed up. Their sense of alienation and hostility is increasing. Their extremism is developing, as is their sense of violence. We are in grave danger of underestimating the problem.

We repeat the fact that half the number of young people coming out of school are unlikely to get a job and that the situation will get worse. We should understand what that means in human terms. Those young people have become alienated and feel that they are not wanted. They could be exploited by some of the more violent and hostile forces in society.

I hope that the compassion, concern and humanity that we need and which some Conservative Members express in words will be translated into action. At times I despair. We continue to talk about the problem, but we do not seem to be able to cut through the Gordian knot, push away some of the red tape and get something done. I hope that we shall see some action from the Government in the near future, but I fear that that is a pretty vain hope. Perhaps the best that we can look forward to is an early election and the return of a Government with a real commitment to the radical change that is necessary.

Mr. Canavan

The intentions of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) are good. We are grateful to him for this opportunity to debate the provision of education and training for an important year group, namely, the 16 to 18-year-olds.

Yet again the Government ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. The Minister smiles complacently. He seems to be unaware of the fact that Britain comes near the bottom of the league of industrialised countries in this important matter of the provision of education and training for 16 to 18-year-olds.

I only hope that the Minister will look at some of the reports that have been produced by the OECD, the Common Market and other organisations, because the number of young British people undergoing full-time education or training is an abysmal disgrace. The proportion is very low indeed.

The Under-Secretary is supposed to be in charge of industry as well as education. At the time of his appointment, I remember saying that it was the first time that I could recall when a Scottish Office Minister had been given dual responsibility for industry and education. I said that it presented the hon. Gentleman with a tremendous challenge and opportunity to achieve better liaison between industry and education on meaningful training programmes such as those that we have been discussing. But instead the Minister's two jobs have proven to be too big for him, because he has failed in both: he has failed Scottish education, and he has failed Scottish industry. We are now seeing a decline in both of them as a result of his incompetence.

5 am

One of the saddest reflections of the failure of Scottish industry can be seen in the unemployment levels. I think that the most recent figures released were those of 14 May. The Scottish figure then was 286,200. The number of school leavers out of work was 12,900, but already that figure is out of date, because since 14 May many young people have left school after sitting their examinations. Many more will be leaving within the next two or three weeks. The Minister seems oblivious to the fact that many of these young people are leaving school with virtually no hope of getting a meaningful job. We shall see a catastrophic increase in that figure of 12,900 unemployed school leavers the next time the figures are released by the Government.

Various bodies have come out in favour of improvement of provision for the 16 to 18 age group. For example, the policy of the Educational Institute of Scotland is that all young people aged 16 to 18 should be engaged full time in education, training or employment, or a combination of those, and that all young people in employment should receive part-time education. Many other bodies, including various unions affiliated to the Scottish TUC, and the Scottish TUC itself, are in favour of policies on similar lines.

I have a certain sympathy with the intentions behind the new clause, but perhaps I may be constructively critical of it in some respects. It seems that it would make it compulsory for employers to make provision for young persons to spend one day of each working week at established colleges. That appears to be a little inflexible, bearing in mind the various kinds of block release courses, and so on, which for some trades are prevalent and have certain advantages over laying down provisions, as the new clause would do, in a statute, that the form of compulsory training or education should be one day every week. Perhaps the hon. Member for Dundee, East will agree with me that to make a rigid statutory obligation might be less preferable than adopting a more flexible method that might lead to better education and training, rather than having an absolute norm of one day per week.

The new clause provides for the attendance of unemployed young people for at least one day per week at "established colleges". I am not sure what "established colleges" means. I do not like the word "establishment" much. There is a good case for widening the role of some of the educational institutions, particularly colleges of education, to cater for the 16 to 18-year-old age group. New clause 6 is too inflexible for my liking, but I accept that the hon. Member for Dundee, East had good intentions in moving it.

Several hon. Members have referred to the better use of existing training facilities. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) referred to the excellent apprenticeship training facilities that exist under the auspices of the Ministry of Defence in Stirling. Many of my former pupils went there. Although some of them may no longer be employed in the Ministry of Defence, they all spoke highly of the training that they received in that establishment. I suggest that some of the facilities which may be under-used in such placers—

Mr. Harry Ewing

Badly under-used.

Mr. Canavan

Badly under-used, as my hon. Friend says—should be extended to young people. They may not be interested in a career in the Ministry of Defence as such, but the facilities that exist within a Government Department could be used to train young people, some of whom may want to go out into the broader field of industry. They should be encouraged to do that. I have consistently advocated the transfer of resources from defence to manufacturing industry. That would be a meaningful way of using an existing MOD establishment to train young people, so that even when the economy picks up, even though the MOD may not want to use the skills, they will be trained and adaptable. I am assured that the training they get makes them very adaptable, not just to Ministry of Defence work, but to work in many other industries. That would be a practicable way of training young people for industry.

One of the sad features of the decline of British industry, which has been accelerated by the disastrous policies of the Government, is that even when the economy begins to pick up and when some regeneration of industry becomes possible the opportunities will be limited, because we shall not have the trained work force available to take full advantage of that upturn in the economy. We should be concentrating our resources on training, particularly for young people. There may not be an immediate prospect of their skills being put to full use. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) said, we shall have to wait for a change of Government before the economy picks up. We cannot afford to wait in the hope that matters will right themselves and that everything will work all right. We must invest in training instead of allowing our young people to roam the streets and hang around street corners. We should give them some meaningful purpose in life, by training them.

I accept some of the points made by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker). I do not always agree with him, but I think that we need a radical rethink not only about training those aged 16 to 18 but about retraining older people and having a more flexible system of entry and re-entry into certain trades. There may be difficulties, but that is worth aiming at.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire that this is one of the biggest challenges facing us. We are in danger of alienating hundreds of thousands of young people, because mass unemployment is bad for the whole of society. Young people in particular, who have never had work experience, and have never had the opportunity to find a useful role in life, will feel increasing resentment against the society, the Government and the Parliament that have denied them those opportunities.

Unless we respond to young people's needs, I fear that some young people may, unfortunately—I would never condone this—feel tempted to take their resentment against society out in a very anti-social way that I hope no hon. Member on either side of the House would like to see. We should think about their future, because the future of our civilisation and our society lies in their hands. If we deny them these opportunities, it will be our fault if our standards of civilisation crumble as a result.

Question put and negatived.

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