Mr Boles said that he was ‘evangelical about Apprenticeships’, that an Apprenticeship can have benefits such as social mobility, improved diversity, competitiveness in business and personal fulfilment. He cited several famous names who were apprentices, Sir Alex Ferguson, Karen Millen and Sir Ian McKellan among them. He spoke of the Government’s ‘big ambitions’ for Apprenticeships, including a greater spend enabled by the new Apprenticeship Levy and ensuring that the public sector ‘pulled its weight’ following the ‘fantastic example’ of the armed forces. He called for more quality as well as quantity and for the House to support Apprenticeships with ‘one voice’.
Shadow Skills Minister Gordon Marsden called the statement a ‘rehash’ of previous statements, however, and asked for more clarity on the Levy and responsibilities of large employers and universities. He asked for a clear picture of how much Mr Boles expected the levy to raise and who would supervise the levy.
Among Mr Boles’ key responses to questions from the House were:
- The Government is setting very simple minimum standards for Apprenticeships
- There are currently too few Higher and degree Apprenticeships
- FE colleges are at the heart of a community that is investing in its young people and should account for 2/3 available Apprenticeships funding from the current 1/3
- Small and medium sized employers should also be involved in developing standards
- 12 month requirement does pose a problem for seasonal industries like farming and tourism, so Government proposes a pilot in which an apprentice will work for 12 out of 15 months.
Summarised from debate televised on parliamentlive.tv 10th March 2016.