HC Deb 11 July 1995 vol 263 cc738-9
11. Mr. Evennett

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how TEC licensing will improve standards of training; and what assessment she has made of the proportion of TECs currently achieving good standards. [31792]

Mr. Paice

Three-year licences are awarded to training and enterprise councils that meet rigorous standards for performance and capability. All TECs are required to achieve a licence by 1997.

Mr. Evennett

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that training and retraining are vital in today's society and that they must be worth while, of a high calibre and must help the participants? Is he aware that, although some TECs have failed in some areas, the majority have done a very good job? SOLOTEC in my borough of Bexley has done an excellent job in the past few years.

Mr. Paice

My hon. Friend is correct: training on its own is inadequate unless it is of a high calibre. That is why we have concentrated on a range of measures to drive up the performance of our training courses through TECs and it is why we publish performance league tables for all TECs every August. That demonstrates the rate of improvement in many TECs, including SOLOTEC, which I am pleased to congratulate on its success. There is a further range of measures, including funding according to performance, designed to improve the output of TECs.

I make it absolutely clear that the licensing process is extremely rigorous. If TECs do not meet the standards necessary, they will not get a licence and they will not get a contract.

Mr. Barron

The Minister talks about improving standards of training. Did not Coopers and Lybrand's study into the output-related funding of training conclude that the Government have virtually destroyed training provision in this country? Why were the implications of output-related funding not evaluated properly before the scheme went national this financial year?

In view of decisions taken last week, training providers and training and enterprise councils want to know one thing. When the right hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mrs. Shephard) was Secretary of State for Employment, she made a £100 million cut in the training budget. There will be training cuts this year and next year as well. Will the training that the Government abolished just prior to their abolition of the Department of Employment be restored?

Mr. Paice

My right hon. Friend will address the TEC national conference on Thursday. She will reassure it of our total support for the role that TECs play and will continue to play in the provision of training. The hon. Gentleman was clearly not listening earlier when I said that training budgets overall have not changed from last year. He identified one specific sector of the training budget—training for work—but overall it has not changed. The evidence is entirely clear on output-related funding. TECs running output-related pilots improved their training output dramatically, and it was entirely logical that they were the way forward for the whole country.

Mr. Gallie

Is my hon. Friend aware of the pick-up in the house building programme recently? Does he share my concern about the lack of basic skills within that industry? What steps can be taken throughout the construction industry, perhaps to reintroduce the traditional apprenticeships of old?

Mr. Paice

I have good news for my hon. Friend. First, the Construction Industry Training Board is responsible for training in that industry. Secondly, it has embarked on the provision of modern apprenticeships, along with many other organisations and employers who this year will make available nearly 50 different vocational modern apprentice-ships to enable a vast range of people to obtain recognised qualifications based on competence testing. That is the way forward to meet the skills needs of the future.

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