Iain Wright – 2014 Parliamentary Question to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Iain Wright on 2014-04-09.

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, with reference to Growth is Our Business: A Strategy for Professional and Business Services published in July 2013, what progress his Department has made in (a) developing a clearing house for professional and business services higher apprenticeship applicants and (b) helping small and medium-sized enterprises access this talent pool.

Matthew Hancock

These questions ask about a number of actions related to skills development from “Growth is our business: a strategy for professional and business services”, published in July 2013 as part of Government’s industrial strategy. The strategy was developed in collaboration with the professional and business services sector, focusing on the industry’s agenda for long term growth. It is led by the Professional and Business Services Council.

The strategy reflects two key business priorities in skills development. First, to expand recruitment routes into the sector, in particular higher apprenticeships, to access a wider, more diverse talent pool. Second, to help businesses engage with the education system to raise aspirations and promote work readiness. A business-led skills taskforce for professional and business services has been established. It is developing approaches to implement the strategy and will report progress at the end of this year.

The skills taskforce is leading work to help towards the strategy’s ambitious target to treble the number of higher apprenticeship starts across professional and business services to 10,000 over five years; and to follow progress in the interim, so that the numbers of these apprenticeships can be monitored. As a first step, the taskforce is supporting the London Professional Apprenticeship scheme, which was launched in December 2013, and is now recruiting apprentices and employers to take part. The scheme will pilot the proposal for a “clearing house” to help small firms access higher apprenticeships in professional and business services. In addition, the taskforce is backing new ‘trailblazer’ initiatives, announced in March 2014, to develop employer-driven standards for apprenticeships in several professional and business services occupations.

The skills taskforce is currently researching the metrics for schools’ reporting and their effect on the prestige of higher apprenticeships as initial career destinations. It will consider if more could be done to ensure higher apprenticeships have parity of esteem with higher education.

The taskforce is also mapping current school engagement activity involving professional and business services firms with a view to identifying and sharing good practice.

The new emphasis on wider use of higher apprenticeships across professional and business services should contribute towards a greater diversity of routes into these careers in the years to come; potentially offering opportunities to a wider pool of talent.

The skills taskforce intends to consider how the employability of young people can be supported within the national curriculum, but believes that greater engagement between employers and young people is the best way of improving employability skills.

My noble friend Lord Lingfield has set up the independent Institution for Further Education to take forward work on a new chartered status quality schemeand is considering the application and assessment process for Further Education providers.

The skills taskforce is exploring how web-based services can support engagement between firms and the education sector, including a planned digital “inspiration” tool being developed by this Department to encourage business-schools engagement.

Further information on the implementation of “Growth is our business: a strategy for professional and business services” is included in a progress report on industrial strategy, published on 23 April 2014: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/industrial-strategy-early-successes-and-future-priorities.