By Matthew Barrett
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John Hayes, the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, is responsible for one of the unmitigatedly good things the government is doing: creating hundreds of thousands of apprenticeships.
At Business Questions on Thursday, Mr Hayes was in fine form, decrying the "whiners and whingers" who seek to play down the successes of the government in this area:
"The hon. Gentleman is right that there has been a growth in over-25s apprenticeships and he will know that the previous Government commissioned the Leitch report, which said that that was exactly what we needed—to upskill and reskill the work force. Notwithstanding that, however, he will also know that there has been remarkable, unprecedented growth in 16 to 18 apprenticeships and in 19 to 24 apprenticeships over two years. Contrary to the complaints of the carpers and the cringers, the whiners and the whingers, the biggest proportion of growth has been at level 3—that is A-level equivalent."
Mr Hayes was asked a further question about level 3 apprenticeships – which are the equivalent of A-levels, as above – and the Minister celebrated the national benefit of the increase in apprenticeships.
"…there were those, largely drawn from the bourgeois left, who looked down their noses at practical learning and who thought that the most growth would be at level 2, but actually we have facilitated very substantial growth—over 60%—at level 3 as my hon. Friend says. It is a rosy day for the Government and, much more importantly, a rosy day for Britain."
We can take a look at the numbers involved in this increase. Of the 442,700 apprenticeship starts between August 2010 and July 2011, there were:
- 292,700 Intermediate Level apprenticeship starts – compared to 190,500 in 2009/10
- 147,900 Advanced Level apprenticeship starts – compared to 87,700 in 2009/10
- 2,100 Higher Apprenticeship starts – compared to 1,500 in 2009/10
- 128,300 apprenticeship starts by those aged under 19 – compared to 116,800 in 2009/10
- 138,900 apprenticeship starts by 19–24 year olds – compared to 113,800 in 2009/10
- 175,500 apprenticeship starts by those aged 25 and over – compared to 49,100 in 2009/10
The sectors involved in the increase included:
- Business, Administration and Law with 130,290 apprenticeship starts – compared to 76,590 in 2009/10
- Retail and Commercial Enterprise with 100,630 apprenticeship starts – compared to 61,620 in 2009/10
- Health, Public Services and Care with 86,120 apprenticeship starts – compared to 44,150 in 2009/10
- Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies with 47,020 apprenticeship starts – compared to 37,860 in 2009/10
- Construction, Planning and the Built Environment with 26,560 apprenticeship starts – compared to 25,210 in 2009/10
- Information and Communication Technology with 19,160 apprenticeship starts – compared to 12,570 in 2009/10
More help for apprenticeships is on the way: back in July, David Cameron pledged to fund 10,000 new apprenticeships, and funding for apprenticeships has been increased in 2011-12 to over £1.4bn.
Let's pay tribute to one of the Coalition's success stories - John Hayes is delivering hundreds of thousands of apprenticeships in key sectors of the economy – and is thus ensuring the workforce has a stronger skills base, businesses are able to benefit, and as a result, the economy is in a better position to grow.