HC Deb 17 November 1981 vol 13 cc146-7
2. Mr. Sainsbury

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is his latest estimate of the proportion of 16 and 17-year-olds not in higher or further education who are receiving more than one day per week of vocational training.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Michael Alison)

I regret that the information is not available in the form requested. However, it is estimated that of those 16 and 17-year-olds who entered employment in England and Wales in 1979, about 40 per cent. entered jobs which offered training extending over eight weeks or more. The Manpower Services Commission's youth opportunities programme provides basic training and work experience for unemployed 16 and 17-year-olds. Currently, about 259,000 young people are participating in the programme.

Mr. Sainsbury

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. In view of the importance of vocational training if we are to have a labour force with the skills and flexibility necessary for the age in which it must work, is it worth reviewing the availability of information on how widespread vocational training is? Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should move to the stage when such training is made available to all school leavers who do not move to higher or further education?

Mr. Alison

I confirm that we have all the statistics that we need. I shall check what my hon. Friend said in the first part of his question. I endorse the objective that he outlined. It is one of the primary aims of "A New Training Initiative" which will develop on a large scale in the new year.

Dr. McDonald

What action does the Minister propose to uphold the Prime Minister's pledge that every unemployed school leaver should have a place on the youth opportunities programme by Christmas, bearing in mind the Manpower Services Commission report that that is unlikely to be achieved, especially in areas of recent high unemployment, such as London and the South-East?

Mr. Alison

We are vigorously pursuing the undertaking that we gave. We are optimistic that the majority will be able to obtain posts. The latest position cannot be stated categorically because the most recent count, which took place on 12 November, has not yet been assimilated. We shall be in a position to give an answer later.

Mr. Marlow

While my right hon. Friend is considering the whole range of plans for young people aged 16, 17 and 18, will he leave a possible opening for the development of a scheme for national community service should it appear later that that is something with which the Government would like to proceed?

Mr. Alison

I know of my hon. Friend's deep interest in the idea of community service. The YOP already features about 30 per cent. of entrants on community schemes. I take note of the interest that my hon. Friend takes in a further extension of that scheme.

Mr. Barry Jones

Why has the Minister not insisted on a component for training in the new and controversial young workers' scheme? Has he not sold these youngsters short?

Mr. Alison

Late last night the hon. Gentleman heard the answer to that question. I shall repeat it for him. In the young workers' scheme it is essential to concentrate on a single, narrow and realisable objective—the creation of new jobs for youngsters. The insertion of a training dimension separate from that which is already available would be a diffusion from that aim. We mean to stick to the simple aim.