HC Deb 17 January 1989 vol 145 cc137-8
1. Mr. Jim Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment whether he has any plans to establish an inquiry into the effectiveness of vocational training for young people; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Norman Fowler)

The Government made clear in the recent White Paper, "Employment for the 1990s" that YTS has succeeded in training substantial numbers of young people for jobs. To ensure its continued effectiveness, the scope and role of the scheme will be kept under review as too will the developing inner-city compacts and the extension of the technical and vocational educational initiative to all secondary schools and colleges in Great Britain.

Mr. Marshall

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply but I could not help noticing an element of complacency in it. Does the Secretary of State accept that Britain continues to lag behind our main competitors in the provision of adequate vocational training for young people and that that is likely further to undermine Britain's competitiveness, especially after 1992? What further effective steps does the Secretary of State intend to take to ensure a better and adequate vocational training for young people?

Mr. Fowler

We are taking a whole series of steps to seek to improve training for young people, unemployed people and people at work. I entirely accept what the hon. Gentleman has said about the importance of that. The fact that YTS has been successful can be established from the figures in the hon. Gentleman's own city of Leicester. I am sure that he will be pleased to know that in the past two years in Leicester an average of 86 per cent. of people on YTS have gone into jobs, further education or training.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

Does the Secretary of State accept that what we really need in the provision of training for young people is a far more co-ordinated approach between schools, technical colleges, the careers service in particular and the employment and training agencies? How does the Secretary of State see that approach developing further?

Mr. Fowler

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we need the greatest degree of co-operation and co-ordination that we can get. We have just begun the compact initiatives in inner cities, which are exactly in line with what the hon. Gentleman wants—co-operation between industry on the one side and schools on the other. I am glad to say that all the signs are that although they were begun only a few months ago they are already developing into what I believe will be an outstanding success.

Mr. David Nicholson

Is it not the case that more than three quarters of YTS leavers go into jobs or further training? How does my right hon. Friend see those prospects improving or shaping in subsequent months?

Mr. Fowler

My hon. Friend is right—about 76 per cent. of YTS leavers go into jobs, further training or education, and 80 per cent. of the leavers who were asked afterwards whether they were happy with their training said that it was worth while. In the next few years opportunities for young people will undoubtedly increase. Indeed, the opportunities and outlook for young people in this country have scarcely ever been better.

Mr. Meacher

But have not the Government created skill shortages by running down skills training in the past 10 years? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that last year craft and technician qualifications in chemical and electrical engineering were down to only 30,000, which is less than a third of the number in France and less than a quarter of the number in Germany? Is he further aware that in the service sector the number of people gaining qualifications in retailing in this country is now less than one ninth of the number in France? Against that background, is it not perfectly clear that there is not a skills gap but a skills chasm, and that since this Government have been in office it has been widening?

Mr. Fowler

Typically, the hon. Gentleman is wrong in virtually everything that he says. In fact, there are now 428,000 people in training under YTS—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman will listen to the figures, he will find out. There are now 428,000 people in training under YTS. That is a greater number of young people in training than ever before.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the German experience, which I believe has a great deal to teach this country. That is why, for the purposes of improving training we have put forward the proposal to have training and enterprise councils locally based, industry-run and employer-led. Training has already improved, but it will improve substantially more.

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