HL Deb 17 March 1983 vol 440 cc825-6
Lord Monk Bretton

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what percentage of school-leavers in Britain at present receive no vocational training whatsoever.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (the Earl of Gowrie)

My Lords, the Youth Training Scheme will guarantee the early offer of a high quality training place to all unemployed 16-year-old school-leavers. Some employed 16-year-old school-leavers will also be covered. Sixteen-year-old school-leavers entering employment, who are not covered by the scheme, may receive training, but that will depend on the employer.

Lord Monk Bretton

My Lords, may I thank my noble friend the Minister for that reply, and following from it, may I ask him how well we compare in vocational training with other member countries of the EEC, and how well he expects the Youth Training Scheme will improve our position?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I have to say that I do not think that we compare at all well; hence the introduction by the Government of the scheme. In total, just over half of our young people receive any systematic vocational educational preparation, compared with more than 90 per cent. in West Germany, and 80 per cent. in France. We are pleased with the reception given to the scheme by employers. So far, 65,000 places have been promised by large companies, and 100,000 new training places under the Youth Opportunities Programme will be converted to places under this scheme.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, is it not correct that in, for example, West Germany the actual cost of placing youngsters in vocational training schemes is relatively small as against what we have to pay in unemployment benefit to youngsters who do not have jobs? Is it not time that we took advantage of the recession at least in order to ensure that our youngsters are all given vocational training, which they very much need?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I do not know the costs in Germany, but having looked at the scheme here, I cannot say that the costs are very slender. Nevertheless, the Government think that the money must be spent.

Lord Byers

My Lords, is it not a fact that the figures that the noble Earl quoted of 90 per cent. in West Germany and 80 per cent. in France relate to young people who have had the training by the time that they leave the educational system, and is that not what we must try to do?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I am altogether in agreement with the noble Lord.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, setting aside the Youth Training Scheme, which is not yet in place, can the noble Earl tell us how the situation now compares with when the Government came into office? If I am correct, at that time 40 per cent. of those going into work received no training, and another 20 per cent. received training for only eight weeks or less.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I should need separate notice of that point. However, while they have tried to discharge their responsibilities towards unemployed young people through the Youth Opportunities Programme, the Government were not satisfied that the programme set up by the previous Government contained enough hard training element. That is why we are trying to "up" the amount of actual training that young people can obtain, so that later as, we hope, we move out of recession in the West, and there are greater opportunities, young people will be able to find real places.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, will the noble Earl the Minister agree that the initiative taken in the schools by the Manpower Training Commission is likely to raise the prestige of vocational training and make young people more interested in taking advantage of the schemes to which he has referred?

The Earl of Gowrie

Yes, my Lords; while I was still a Minister in the department with responsibilities for youth training and the rest, I was very anxious that the schools should get in on the act, and I am glad that they have done so.

Baroness David

My Lords, can the Minister say whether the technical colleges and further education colleges will be ready to provide the educational part of the scheme next September? From what I hear, there is considerable confusion about what they are expected to do, and there are constantly changing instructions and requests. There seems to be much anxiety and confusion within the colleges.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, no such anxiety or confusion has been brought to my attention; but if the noble Baroness cares to channel some of it my way, I shall try to spread some balm.

Lord Drumalbyn

My Lords, so that we can get the comparison, and indeed the problem, into perspective, can my noble friend say what are the school leaving ages in France and Germany?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I think that in France school-leavers may be a little younger than ours, but I should need separate notice of that question.

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