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:
The sectors involved in the increase included:
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.