HC Deb 02 March 1993 vol 220 cc124-6
4. Mr. Sheerman

To ask the Secretary of State for Education when he will next meet the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals to discuss graduate employment.

Mr. Boswell

My right hon. Friend meets the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals from time to time to discuss general higher education issues. He has not received a specific request to discuss graduate employment.

Mr. Sheerman

Do not the ghastly numbers of unemployed young talent show that a tremendous opportunity for our country has been missed? In a week when President Clinton has introduced a bold and imaginative new initiative for young people, is it not about time that the Government had the imagination to use the talents of young people to do something about the urgent social and industrial problems of our country?

Mr. Boswell

The hon. Gentleman perhaps forgets that we have already rapidly expanded the number of students in higher education at the expense of the taxpayer. I would not suggest to the House that graduate employment should be immune to the recession. It is important that we build on the existing high participation rates in higher education and the growing contribution and involvement of young people in further education. That is the best possible thing that those young people can do if there are employment difficulties. I strongly advise them to get the skills that they require, ready for when the upturn comes.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that in a period of world recession, anyone who is fortunate enough to achieve education in the higher sphere—particularly in a university—should consider carefully and seriously the discipline that they expect to study, if they are to look forward to the opportunities that will arise when the world comes out of recession?

Mr. Boswell

As ever, my hon. Friend is on a good point. It is important that those at university should make the best possible use of their time there. There is no better way of ensuring that this country comes out of recession at the head of the line than having the highest possible ratio of skills in our population.

Mr. Rooker

Does the Minister accept that work and education are the foundation of human well-being and that the willingness of people to be educated and trained and to work is a nation's greatest asset? Given that undergraduates are, by definition, the best and most expensively educated human assets that this country has, does the Minister's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) indicate that neither the Minister nor any of his colleagues has taken a single initiative in discussing the issue of graduate unemployment?

Mr. Boswell

The Department primarily responsible for employment matters is the Department of Employment. The original question asked specifically when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will next meet the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. As and when it makes such a request, I shall respond. I have shown the House that we have increased the involvement of our younger people in higher and further education. We plan to continue doing that and to have the best-educated and best-skilled work force in employment, to exploit in future the competitive advantage that skills can bring to industry.