HC Deb 25 May 1993 vol 225 cc744-5
10. Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what representations she has received on the provision of training for 16 to 19-year-olds.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

The representations I receive from employers and others note the considerable progress made in increasing young people's participation in education and training.

Mr. Jones

Does the Minister accept that we are in danger of failing a whole generation of young people if we do not have a well-planned and well-resourced training programme? Is not it the case that, even today, academic qualifications are valued more highly than vocational qualifications, at a time when the economy needs young people with excellent skills in industry, business, commerce and science? As general national vocational qualifications in schools have failed, how do the Government intend to tackle this problem?

Mr. Forsyth

I was agreeing with the hon. Gentleman until he made his criticism of GNVQs. I agree with him about the importance of training. I also think that it is important that we get across what these national vocational qualifications are about. They are not well enough understood in the country and it is important that they should be, so that we may deal with the kind of prejudice against vocational training that the hon. Gentleman identifies. So little known are NVQs that they were referred to in The Independent the other day as envy queues—which we tend to associate with Opposition Members. That is why the Government have a major campaign to get across what NVQs are and the importance of vocational training.

Mr. Marlow

The hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones) seemed to be asking my hon. Friend whether he would find some more resources and find some more money. This is often the case from the Opposition parties and it may, in certain circumstances, be justified. But if my hon. Friend is to do that—and even if he is not to do it —can he tell the House where he proposes to make savings in his Department so that we can help to deal with the Government deficit?

Mr. Forsyth

I am surprised at my hon. Friend. He must not fall into the trap of confusing inputs with outputs. My right hon. Friend has been able this year to increase the number of opportunities by nearly 600,000 to 1.6 million for unemployed people by looking at how the resources are used and ensuring that they are used effectively. It is outputs that matter, not inputs.

Mr. Leighton

Was not it the case that the unit price on a year's trading was predicated on the assumption that employers would be fighting each other for young people because of the demographic time bomb and therefore would be making an employers' contribution? He will know that this has not happened and that in many areas of the country there is an acute shortage of employer placements. They are not making their contribution and therefore the unit price in many cases is totally inadequate for quality training.

Mr. Forsyth

I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the difficulties of obtaining places, which in part has been a consequence of recession. However, I must give him the same advice as I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow): he must not confuse inputs with outputs. We have seen in the variation of costs of providing trading places around the country that some TECs have been able to do considerably more with given resources than have others. We need to ensure that the practice of the best becomes the practice of them all.