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Careers Advice

Volume 546: debated on Monday 18 June 2012

17. What steps he is taking to improve the quality of careers advice provided by those working in the education sector. (111849)

The Government have established a national careers service, placed a new duty on schools to secure independent advice, established a new National Council for Careers, created a new destination measure to hold schools to account and we have asked Ofsted to conduct a thematic review of careers guidance next year. In short, we have done more in two years than the last Government did in 13 years.

Quality face-to-face careers advice is essential not just to ensure that young people have access to opportunities and services, but to inspire them so that social mobility actually happens. Is it not therefore a mistake for the Government to be moving away from face-to-face advice? Surely, no one has ever been inspired by a telephone hotline.

We have invested in the biggest and best website we have ever had for careers guidance. We will have more than 3,000 places available across the country where people can access the national careers service. Yes, face-to-face guidance matters, but each school will make its own judgment in line with its own needs to do the best by its own pupils. We trust schools; the last Government simply did not.

Good quality careers advice is affected by the image that different career choices have among young people. Will my hon. Friend give his backing to campaigns such as See Inside Manufacturing, which was designed to inspire young people to think about career choices in manufacturing?

Indeed. When visiting Jaguar Land Rover in Liverpool, I was fortunate enough to see that working in practice. St Margaret’s primary school was visiting that great British company as part of that programme, gaining the sort of insight into learning, manufacturing and employment that my hon. Friend rightly highlights. Of course we will continue to support that kind of initiative.

Last week’s CBI education survey found that 68% of employers were dissatisfied with the quality of careers guidance, but in just three months’ time the statutory duty for schools to provide a careers service will become effectively meaningless as the amount of money is reduced and schools have to define for themselves and pay for themselves from within their already squeezed resources. Given that the number of young people not in education or training and youth unemployment is at crisis levels, how will the Minister act from day one to ensure the consistency, accessibility and quality of careers advice?

The Connexions service was roundly criticised for doing none of that. Connexions, over which the last Government presided, failed according to Ofsted, the Skills Commission inquiry into information, the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, and the Edge survey. We will do better, because we understand that good-quality advice and guidance help people to change their lives by changing their life chances. Of course this is a challenge; it is a catharsis leading from failure to success.

Given the number of young people who are still not in education, employment or training, does the Minister agree that it is vital for young people to be made aware, throughout the education process, of the apprenticeships and the vocational and other opportunities that are available to them?

As I have said in the House before, for too long we convinced ourselves that the only means of gaining prowess came through academic accomplishment. Like William Morris and John Ruskin, I believe that technical tastes and talents deserve their place in the sun, and the careers service will highlight that so that people with such aspirations can achieve their full potential.

We are grateful for the fact that the Minister of State’s literary allusions are as plentiful and apposite as ever.