HC Deb 22 February 1983 vol 37 cc793-4
14. Mr. Wolfson

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what importance he attaches to the provision of mid-career education and training opportunities.

Mr. William Shelton

Our initiative for professional, industrial and commercial updating, known as PICKUP, reflects the considerable importance we attach to the provision of mid-career education and training opportunities.

Mr. Wolfson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. What discussions has his Department had with other relevant Departments, especially the Departments of Industry, Employment and Health and Social Security, to achieve a co-ordinated strategy for mid-career training?

Mr. Shelton

I assure my hon. Friend that discussions have been continuous and fairly extensive. I can cite as an example the workshops that have been held throughout the country. Eight have already been held and a further seven are planned. They are meant to bring together the various bodies that my hon. Friend mentioned for discussions on how the scheme may best proceed.

Mr. Newens

Is the Minister aware that many people who have taken mid-career educational courses have subsequently found themselves unemployed? In those circumstances, is it not nonsensical for us to talk about mid-career education, when the Government are doing nothing about giving the type of boost to industry that is necessary to give people the opportunity to make use of whatever skills they acquire?

Mr. Shelton

It seems that most of the people who are taking part in the PICKUP scheme are in employment and updating their skills for continuing employment. I accept that there may be some who find that they are unemployed. Nevertheless, in general, the scheme is for people in employment. By and large, the fees are paid for by the company for which those people work.

Mr. Rhodes James

Although a great deal has been done in the past three years, does my hon. Friend agree that present circumstances highlight the weakness of the grant structure, especially for those who have taken a first degree and are not entitled to take a second? Does he agree that that brings the problem of discretionary grants into the discussion?

Mr. Shelton

That is an interesting question, but it is different from the one that we are considering. Should the Government decide to introduce a loan scheme, it would be interesting to see whether that scheme could be extended to cover people in adult and continuing education.

Mr. Pavitt

Does the Minister agree that the PICKUP programme is utterly inadequate in view of the rapidly changing circumstances of automation in industry? Does he agree also that it is time that we took off the shelves the tremendous number of reports in the Minister's Department and tried to achieve a more active programme of work that will meet the changing conditions in which we now live?

Mr. Shelton

The Department has put £2 million towards the programme. That is more than the Labour Government ever did. Indeed, the Labour Government had no scheme of any sort.