§ 14. Mr. Willey
asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity how many places at Government training centres in the Northern Region were unfilled on the last available date ; and what steps are being taken to fill the vacancies.
§ 29. Mr. R. W. Elliott
asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if all places in Government training centres in the Northern Region are filled ; if she is satisfied that available courses adequately serve the skill requirements of industries in the region ; and if she will make a statement.
§ Mr. Dell
On 13th October, 1969, there were 272 unfilled places. My officers are continuing their efforts to encourage potential trainees to apply for the engineering courses, in which most of the vacancies exist. They are also drawing the attention of employers to the facilities for free sponsored training of their employees at centres in the Northern Region.
The skill requirements of industries in the region are kept under constant review, and new trades are introduced and others modernised as necessary.
§ Mr. Willey
Does my hon. Friend appreciate that it is because of the progress we have made over the last year or two in the provision of these places that the figures are disturbing? Will he consider holding a general review of the courses, see that they are all relevant to the employment opportunities and step up the campaign in order to bring home to people the importance of taking such courses?
§ Mr. Dell
I will look at the first point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). On the second point, I remind him that we are doing a great deal to publicise the availability of the courses. But I have to admit that there are particular difficulties in the Northern Region, where one of the limiting factors is the possibility of employment after courses are taken. There is also the point, to which I drew attention in my main answer, that there are a large number of unfilled places in engineering, which is characteristic of most of the country.
§ Mr. Elliott
Will the hon. Gentleman take it as a severe criticism of the Government's policy towards our development area that such a large number of places are not taken up? Will he recognise that our high unemployment figure masks a severe shortage of skill? Will he make every effort to bring to the notice of employers sponsored courses, and speed up the procedure of setting up new courses?
§ Mr. Dell
We have done a great deal to assist in the Northern Region where there are a number of industries characterised by declining employment, which 1166 makes very important the provision of adequate training courses. One of the best possibilities I can see for an increase in occupancy in Government training centres in the region would be an increase in the amount of sponsored training opportunities, which we are increasingly drawing to the attention of the employers.
§ Mr. Conlan
Will my hon. Friend agree that, to a large measure, the number of vacancies available is a consequence of the Government's success in providing places in the development area? Furthermore, does not he agree that perhaps one reason why some of these places are not taken up is the level of payment made to those taking the courses?