The apprenticeships minister has said she has “absolutely no idea” how the government’s flagship 3 million apprenticeships starts target was set.
Anne Milton made the admission at a hearing of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Select Committee, which concluded its inquiry into the economics of higher, further and technical education.
The minister then asked the committee if any of them knew, and Lord Turnball responded: “Nick Boles [former skills minister] had said the previous target was 2 million and we needed a new one so we decided it was 3 million.”
In a wide-ranging two-hour session, the committee quizzed Ms Milton and fellow Department for Education minister Sam Gyimah about tertiary education.
Ms Milton added that she felt it was advantageous that there was a high turnover of skills ministers because “we all treat it with a fresh set of eyes.”
Ms Milton said there is a "terrible intellectual snobbery" in the UK about degrees, and pointed to Theresa May’s speech announcing the review of post-18 education. She said the prime minister’s point that technical education was seen as something for “other people’s children” was a valid one.
Some businesses are 'quite grumpy'
She also praised the government's apprenticeships programme, adding: “The reforms were very brave in many ways. Getting the levy through Parliament was a big step. I think most businesses – and some businesses and the CBI are quite grumpy about it and would like to have some flexibility about how they use it – most of them have accepted it as a matter of fact.”
The chair of the committee, Lord Forsyth, said a report on its findings should be published in May.