Bishop of Derby takes part in debate on apprenticeships

On 28th November 2013, the Bishop of Derby took part in Baroness Wilcox’ debate on what action the Government are taking to increase the take-up of apprenticeships among young people. In his speech, he spoke of the need for education to assist in the development of good citizens and a high-calibre workforce based on vocation. He also raised the importance of employees being bale to train the right people for the right roles and the need to ensure that all young people have access to employment.
Bishop of DerbyThe Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, on securing this debate on this very important theme. The Richards review and the statement by the Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise make clear that there are three areas that we need to look at and hold together.

The first is the big context about the importance of using education and training, of which apprenticeship is part, to make good citizens and a proper workforce for the 21st century. That is the theme of vocation: developing people to have a sustainable working life. The second area is the need for employers to be able to train and recruit the kind of people they need for their particular industry. The third area is the fact that there are a large number of young people who lack the opportunity to engage with the world of work. Those three themes frame this debate.

I will start with a comment on the bigger picture. I work in Derby, which is a great centre for industry, technology and innovation. One of the flagships is Rolls-Royce. The Rolls-Royce apprenticeship academy takes between 150 and 200 people a year. It is a setter of high standards. As part of their training, these apprentices are sent into the community to work in schools, with the homeless and in other places of need. They are developed in their vocation to be human beings and to handle themselves in the world, alongside the particular skills of engineering. It is very important to remember that in this debate. As the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, said, that was perhaps part of the energy that created her father—that wider hinterland of vocation to move beyond technical skills.

The second area is the needs of employers. With its long industrial heritage, the city of Derby has an exciting partnership between local businesses, Derby College and the University of Derby, to establish a university technical college that will open in September 2014. This is an engineering school for people between 14 and 18 years old, and a partnership between business and education. It may have the kind of potential to look at some of the learning issues that have been raised today, because of the ingredients of the partnership. Employers know what they are looking for, and are using professional educational and training institutions to help deliver them in a joined-up way.

The third strand is the fact that so many young people are denied access to the world of work. Because of their vocational element, and their ability to equip young people to be citizens and develop their skills in other ways, apprenticeships are a key area for them to have the opportunity to access. In my part of the world we have the JCB Academy; noble Lords probably know about JCB diggers. I work with people who are involved in that academy. They are helping young people to bridge the problem of being out of the world of work and getting into it.

The story of somebody I know illustrates this. This is a young person from a dysfunctional home who was a bad attendee when the opportunity to train through the JCB Academy was offered. Instead of telling this person that they were not meeting our standards and were off the course, the academy first worked with the mother; this was a single-parent family. Then it provided a return-to-school plan for the young person. It provided a mentor. When for other reasons the family was relocated out of the catchment area, JCB took the initiative and found temporary accommodation so that the young person could finish their training. This person is now an almost fully qualified apprentice engineer. That reaching out beyond immediate needs to get someone into the workforce and build a bridge, is crucial for so many young people who lack the opportunity.

I end by asking the Minister three questions. As the Government try to ensure good standards, could they include standards about the formation of citizens and a vocational element in apprenticeships? Besides including small businesses in the apprenticeship model, could the Government see how we could develop partnerships such as the one in the university technical college in Derby, between education and training specialists and elements of industry, that might help small businesses especially? How can we encourage the development of apprenticeships to build bridges to young people who need real encouragement and support to step into the world of work with its disciplines?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Viscount Younger of Leckie): …The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby raised an interesting point and gave an interesting example about the Rolls-Royce training programme, which we know is one of the very best in the country. He also raised a point about the university technical colleges and the need—

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I do not like to interrupt, but if we are to pay tribute, as we should, to the noble Lord, Lord Baker, we should also be sure to pay tribute to Lord Dearing. It was a joint initiative of both noble Lords, and he made such a great contribution that I felt it was appropriate to remind the House of it.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: The noble Lord, Lord Young, is absolutely right, and I certainly pay tribute to Lord Dearing for the work he did in this area. My overall point is that we need to combine practical training and vocational training, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out, and we very much focus on that, mixed, of course, with the provision of academic study. I should also make the point that there is a shortage of science and engineering skills in this country. Again, the right reverend Prelate alluded to this, and it is very much on our radar that we should look at this in respect of apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships must be high quality, rigorous and focused on what employers need. The reforms we are making will put employers in the driving seat of developing apprenticeships that are more rigorous, more responsive and deliver the right skills. Additional rigour will come from a demand for higher standards that will stretch apprentices by setting higher expectations for achievement in English and maths, requiring more assessment at the end of an apprenticeship, and recognising an apprentice’s achievement through a grading system that ensures excellence that is clearly seen and widely understood. These changes build on those already introduced to raise quality, such as the minimum 12 months duration.


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