10 Minute Rule Bill – Small Change Big Difference

Quoted from www.bbc.co.uk:

Labour MP Catherine McKinnell has proposed a Ten Minute Rule Bill requiring ‘successful bidders for high-value public contracts to demonstrate a firm commitment to skills training and apprenticeships.’

Introducing the Bill on 14 September 2010 Ms McKinnell said expanding access to apprenticeships can ‘create a more tailor-made training system where employers, who know their industries better than anyone, identify the skills that are needed and train their apprentices to suit it.’ The full text of the speech can be found below.

I beg to move,

“That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require certain public procurement contracts let by public authorities to include a commitment by the contractor to provide apprenticeships and skills training; and for connected purposes.”

On Friday, I met 19 year old Chris Haugh who was starting his last day as an apprentice motor technician at Newcastle International Airport in my constituency. He began his placement when he left school at 16 and has earned himself a permanent position which he started yesterday. During our chat, he described his 3 years training as the ‘best time of his life’ and he told me about the fantastic support he had received, the great friends he had made and how he is now looking forward to taking an active role in bringing on the next trainee that they take on in the team. He is one in a line of successful apprenticeships at Newcastle airport as I also spoke with senior supervisor Derek Morgan he was actually the first apprentice ever to be taken on by the airport and has now worked there happily for more than 40 years.

At opposite stages of their working lives, both of these individuals perfectly illustrate the benefits of apprenticeships and reasons why I have decided to introduce this Bill. I am hopeful that the ideas I present today, will meet with your support. My EDM on this issue, EDM 692, has so far been signed by 50 MPs, representing 5 different Parties and I am certain that the political will exists to tackle this subject. What I am proposing is a small legislative change that would make a big difference to the lives of millions, improving aspirations and offering training and high quality careers.

The aim of the Bill is to introduce a requirement upon successful bidders for high-value public contracts, to demonstrate a firm commitment to skills training and apprenticeships.

Guidance published by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) in April 2009 aimed to encourage departments to address skills and apprenticeship issues through their procurement policies. This bill aims to build on those guidelines; ensuring that organisations help to develop skills in their workforce through these large scale public contracts.

The economic case is clear.

Firstly, expanding access to apprenticeships will help to bridge the current employment and skills shortfall. This is particularly important in the present financial climate.

Because it is the government that awards these prized contracts, it is uniquely placed to ensure that those profiting from public money are giving something back. With an annual expenditure in 2008/09 of £175bn, public procurement is an ideal tool to encourage organisations to develop their apprenticeship programmes..

This is a simple principle that draws strong and broad support. The TUC, Unite as well as the Federation of Small Businesses and many other groups have all publically stated their support. The FSB in the North East for instance have said that it builds upon their work pushing for the public sector to play a more strategic role in stimulating the growth of apprenticeships. As Frances O’Grady, Deputy Secretary General at the TUC has said, these companies must ‘do their bit.’

Secondly, by ‘doing their bit’ the financial investment required to expand training will be shared by the taxpayer and private firms making profits from public contracts. This is a significant advantage. Government spending is declining and yet the need for jobs and training is higher than ever. According to Department of Business figures, 240,000 apprenticeships were taken up in 2008/09 demonstrating the high demand for apprenticeships;

The current supply of quality apprenticeships is clearly not sufficient to meet the demand. This was recently highlighted when BT this year received 24,000 applications for only 221 places on its apprenticships programme.[i]

Third, the relatively small cost of training an apprentice is contrasted with clear financial benefits to both the firm and individual over the longer-term. A report commissioned by the Department of Education in 2007 estimated that the added financial benefit to the apprentice over their lifetime of completing a Level 3 apprenticeship is around £105,000 in higher wages and a significantly higher likelihood of employment.

A separate report produced in 2008 by Warwick University also showed that the majority of employers recouped the cost of their investment within 2 to 3 years. As the report found that ex-apprentices usually stay with the firms that trained them for far longer than this, they enjoy access to highly-skilled employees who know their business and feel a personal commitment to its success. This improves efficiency and productivity as well as generating non-financial benefits like increased morale and commitment to the organisation.

By expanding access to apprenticeships we can create a more tailor-made training system where employers, who know their industries better than anyone, identify the skills that are needed and train their apprentices to suit it. This will lead to less surplus and shortage in the labour market, quicken our return to prosperity and make sure that Britain has the intelligently trained workers that it will need for recovery.

Along with being convinced by the economic case for this Bill, I also have personal experience of how apprenticeships change lives. Aside from meeting inspiring people such as Chris and Derek, I grew up with my grandfather’s building company and had the opportunity to see at first-hand the human dimension of what it means for people to get the help they need into work. The economic benefits really are only half the story of why this Bill matters.

Being in employment or training doesn’t just mean that a person has a bit more money to spend. It changes the way people view themselves and gives increased pride and self-esteem. Apprentices are perhaps one of the best means to tackle the increasing number of those not in employment, education and training.  We have a perfect opportunity to use apprenticeships to show that in order to be successful, higher-education is not always a pre-requisite. Equal if not greater rewards can be gained through entering the workplace as an apprentice.

Although under the Bill there would be a general commitment to provide training and apprenticeships, but steps will be taken to ensure that it is proportionate and continues to guarantee value for money. Measures will be taken to see that small businesses are not adversely impacted by these proposals due to limits on the size of the contract and the number of apprentices required by the Bill. More than this, the stipulation could not be enforced at the expense of discriminating against contractors from other EU states.

Increasing access to training and boosting availability of apprenticeships are areas on which Labour in government made real strides and, as a result, I am particularly pleased to see that they remain declared goals of the coalition government. I was delighted to read of the Minister for Skills’ praise for apprenticeships during his recent visit to the Nissan car plant in Tyne and Wear. His declaration that ‘apprenticeships matter’ does, I’m sure, give fellow Members of all sides of the House great hopes for the direction of future policy in this area.

There is a widely-recognized need to increase access to apprenticeships, I am convinced that a simple way to do this is for those profiting from public contracts to share some of the cost. Given the support which has been expressed for this proposal not only in Parliament but from industry groups and trade unions, I would ask Honourable Members to support the legislative change proposed by this Bill and to play a part in making sure that a statutory obligation is placed upon the public procurement process that will benefit individuals, businesses and the country. This is a long-overdue requirement, creating a comprehensive national apprenticeships programme that will be central to lower-cost, high-quality skills training in the UK and I commend it to the House.