HC Deb 07 February 1984 vol 53 cc749-50
6. Mr. Lofthouse

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will instruct colleges of further education to accept a youth training scheme certificate as a qualification for further full-time education.

Mr. Brooke

No, Sir. At its present stage of development, the YTS certificate does not provide evidence of coverage and standards achieved on a consistent basis. The Manpower Services Commission has close contact with the examining and validating bodies, which are contributing in a variety of ways to the development of standards within the youth training scheme and the possibilities of progression to further education.

Mr. Lofthouse

Does the Under-Secretary not believe that it is important that young people should feel that training has been worth while? If the certificate is to be worth anything, should not great pressure be put on the Manpower Services Commission to monitor these schemes?

Mr. Brooke

I concur with the points expressed in the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. The youth training scheme certificate in its present form is essentially a subjective record of experience rather than an objective record of achievement. It must, therefore, be a matter for the judgment of educational bodies and/or employers how far they accept it as a qualification for entry to employment, training or further education.

Mr. Hicks

I acknowledge the reasons for my hon. Friend's response at this stage, but does he agree that it is somewhat premature automatically to reject this suggestion? Does he agree also that it is in the interests of everyone to give every encouragement to the YTS, and that its ultimate acknowledgment in that context would give it the status which all of us wish it to have?

Mr. Brooke

The advisory group on content and standards for the YTS, which includes representatives from the Business and Technician Education Council and the City and Guilds of London Institute, has been addressing itself to issues of standards and assessments in the YTS to identify competences which can be objectively assessed in a work-based scheme. When more progress has been made, the validity of a YTS certificate as a qualification for the next stage will be clearer.

Mr. Allan Roberts

Will the Under-Secretary admit that the reason why he will not accept this proposal is that if he did he would have to ensure that the youth training scheme was a training scheme and was not being used by employers on Merseyside and in other places as cheap labour?

Mr. Brooke

That is a rhetorical question.

Mr. Haselhurst

In view of the various initiatives currently being taken, which tend to bridge the gap between education and training, will my hon. Friend confirm that it would probably be wiser policy to maintain a flexible response than go for direction?

Mr. Brooke

Yes, I agree. The shape of FE qualifications for the YTS age group is likely to change in the next few years with the introduction of the certificate of pre-vocational education. Last year my right hon. Friend invited both the CGLI and BTEC to set up a joint board to implement the new qualifications. We hope to issue a consultation document later in the spring. As my hon. Friend says, flexibility is the key.

Mr. Sheerman

Will the Under-Secretary and his colleagues show some courage, which was notably not displayed last week when the White Paper "Training for Jobs" was issued, and start asserting that the Department of Education and Science has a role to play in setting education standards on the YTS, and that some body—the MSC or the Department—should make up its mind whether the YTS is a general education, is a training-for-life scheme or is job specific? The educational content should be first-class, whatever the intention.

Mr. Brooke

Last week the White Paper was issued by both my right hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. I shall interpret the hon. Gentleman's question. The White Paper was neither an attack on local government nor a condemnation of FE colleges. LEAs already work constructively with the MSC. My Department enthusiastically supports the White Paper.