Grantham Journal column: My task - three million new apprentices over the next five years
In politics, as in tobogganing, momentum is all. The Prime Minister is determined to make the most of his victory in the general election, and of the small but perfectly-formed majority with which the voters have rewarded us.
Last week, I manoeuvred my way to the front of the queue of MPs trooping noisily from the Commons to the Lords, so I could get a good view of the Queen on her throne reading her speech setting out the Government’s legislative programme.
In that programme there are two key priorities for which the Prime Minister has asked me to take direct ministerial responsibility: the creation of three million apprenticeships over the next five years, and the reform of the rules governing trade unions and strike ballots.
Everyone agrees about the merits of apprenticeships. They offer young people the combination of jobs and training which sets them up for a rewarding career.
All the evidence shows that people who have completed apprenticeships earn significantly more than those who have not been so fortunate.
Why? Because the blend of skills and experience that apprentices acquire makes them more productive, and therefore worth more to their employers.
My job is to persuade more employers to take on apprentices, so that three million more young men and women are given the chance to put their foot on the apprenticeship ladder to success.
I suspect that there will be less consensus in Parliament about our proposals for trade union reform.
But the main thing we are trying to do is to redress the balance in favour of the great majority of working people who want to know that they can drop their kids at school and get to work on time, without unreasonable disruption by strikes which are supported by only a tiny proportion of union members.
I feel greatly honoured to be a minister in the Government and I hope that the readers of the Journal will share in the benefits of more apprenticeships and trade union reform.
But I will never forget that it is the people of this bit of Lincolnshire who put me into Parliament, and it is them that I must always serve first and foremost.