HC Deb 22 October 1998 vol 317 cc1193-4W
Mr. David Atkinson

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, pursuant to the oral statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of 17 March 1998,Official Report, column 1097, if he will make a statement on the training of 20,000 bug busters. [55948]

Mr. Cotter

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many people have to date(a) applied to become millennium bugbusters and (b) successfully completed the training. [55867]

Mr. Chope

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) how many bugbusters have been trained to date; [55966]

(2) how much money his Department has spent to date on grants to SMEs, under the bugbusters programme; [55967]

(3) how much money his Department has spent to date on advertising and marketing its bugbusters programme; and how much it intends to spend in the rest of 1998–99; [55968]

(4) how many SMEs have so far received grants under his Department's bugbusters training programme; [55969]

(5) how many training organisations have become accredited providers under the bugbusters training programme to date. [55970]

Mr. Mudie

The infrastructure for the Bug Buster programme is now in place. 160 training providers throughout the country have been accredited by the IT National Training Organisation to offer courses. At 16 October, 284 people had started the training: 194 of them had completed courses. A further 620 were booked to go on courses. There is a short time lag between individuals completing courses and payments being made to training providers. As a result only a small number of grants have so far been paid out to small and medium sized enterprises.

Our key objective has been to put in place a high quality programme in which employers would have confidence. It has inevitably taken time to design courses, to accredit training providers and for Training and Enterprise Councils to plan local provision and arrange contracts. However, take up by employers in the early stages of the full operation of the programme has been slower than expected. Some smaller employers still do not appreciate fully the threat posed by the year 2000 problem. Others are concerned about the costs of training.

Action is being taken to address both of these issues. A major marketing and publicity campaign, is being launched at the end of this month. This is in addition to the local marketing carried out by TECs. Courses will now be offered free to employers. This change has been made possible by lower than expected fees being charged by training providers. In addition, IT consultancy firms will now be eligible to claim grant for trainees they take on to work with employers.

The progress of the programme is being kept under constant review. Take up of places under the programme depends on employers' willingness to take this opportunity offered to provide their staff with the skills necessary to deal with an important business problem.