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Workplace Skills Development

Volume 541: debated on Monday 27 February 2012

11. What assessment his Department has made of the role of schools in preparing children and young people for entering the workplace. (96393)

Ofsted found that more than half the secondary schools inspected in 2010-11 were either outstanding or good in developing workplace and other skills to assist students’ future economic prospects. However, young people should also have access to high-quality and impartial information, advice and guidance. The new national careers service, which will be launched in April, will provide just that.

Does the Minister agree that a diploma in engineering is an important qualification and an important skill for young people? Downgrading that important qualification is, in my view, damaging to foreign manufacturers such as Siemens, which is hopefully about to invest very heavily in offshore wind in my fantastic constituency.

The hon. Gentleman will be delighted to learn—I hope—that I plan to visit Hull on 19 April to meet local employers and interested parties. I am very happy to add him to the list of invitees. We will then take forward just the kind of agenda that he suggests.

If I had known that on Thursday night when I was in Hull I might have told my audience. I didn’t, so I couldn’t, but never mind.

Having done much work in career guidance and helping young people to enter work, I am now working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to do real-life pilot schemes with real-life business advisers. Could I meet the Minister so that we can have the best cross-departmental support for that scheme?

It is absolutely right that we should have that, and to understand that the business of providing information, advice and guidance is about giving people the wherewithal to know that the choices they make will affect their future prospects, how they will do so and how we can help. I am determined that such empirical, independent advice and guidance should be available to all. It is about redistributing advantage.

But how are young children going to be motivated when, as in my constituency, youth unemployment has gone up by 88% in the past 12 months? Where will the jobs come from that schools can use to motivate young children?

It is partly about people recognising the opportunities that exist through the right kind of advice and guidance. Of course, the hon. Gentleman is right that economic growth is our key priority—he knows that that permeates all the Government do—but it is absolutely right that we equip people with the right skills on the basis of the right information to make the right choices about job opportunities.

Secondary schools, particularly comprehensives, have a critical role to play in fostering aspiration and getting young people ready for higher education and for work. Has my hon. Friend seen the recent report by the Fair Access to University Group, and does he believe that we can do more to help disadvantaged pupils into our top universities and therefore into our top professions?

Widening access to higher education and learning is at the heart of what I am trying to achieve, but that is not principally about admissions. It is about good advice and guidance; access points to learning; modes of learning; and prior attainment. Let us be clear about how we can widen access and not be hung up on admissions.