I beg to move,
That this House has considered the matter of careers advice in schools for 12 to 16 year olds.
I will do my best to keep to 10 minutes, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for putting this subject forward for debate today. One of the main reasons that I wanted this subject to come before the House was so that I could set out the business reasons for careers advice. There is a major boom in manufacturing that is being put in doubt by a lack of skills and the age profile of the people working in the industry. I will provide some statistics relating to my constituency of Burnley. Cities Outlook 2013 placed Burnley 10th in the country for private sector job growth: growth of 3.5% in the past 18 months against an average of 1%. That is a remarkable recovery, and it happened because we are a manufacturing town. Burnley has climbed 16 places to 22nd out of 63 UK cities in the recovery from recession, and is rated as No. 1 out of 63 cities for the proportion of jobs in manufacturing. We are one of the top manufacturing towns in the country.
I thank my hon. Friend, coming as he does from my home town of Burnley, for securing the debate. With engineering and manufacturing companies reporting recruiting difficulties because of skills shortages and too few students choosing to study engineering and manufacturing, does he agree with the North West Business Leadership Team’s recent report, “Skills for Industry”, that the creation of a single, signposted point of contact to aid recruitment into these fields—a recognised organisation for employers offering jobs, and for students and their careers advisers who are interested in applying to do engineering and manufacturing—is urgently needed?
I have read that report and I agree entirely with my hon. Friend.
The Paris air show took place recently and it is a fantastically successful showcase for the British aerospace industry. We are a small country, but we are second in the world for aerospace manufacture. I spoke to Martin Wright, the chief executive of the North West Aerospace Alliance. I said, “You must be absolutely delighted with what has happened at the Paris air show, with Rolls-Royce and Airbus getting big orders.” He said, “Yes, we are absolutely delighted, but we have a major problem: the capacity is full. We cannot produce the product we are selling at the Paris air show.” When I asked him why, he said, “Well, there are plenty of companies doing it, but the problem is they come up against a brick wall of skills shortages.” As my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) said, the skills shortages happening now are of major concern to business, but even worse are those that will happen in future. We need to resolve that problem.
The aerospace firm Magellan, which employs many people and apprentices in Northern Ireland and my constituency, has a co-ordinated plan working with schools for 12 to 16-year-olds and those going into further education. Is that the sort of plan the hon. Gentleman would like to see across the United Kingdom?
Yes, and even earlier.
I want to share some examples with the House of the problems there are with our careers advice provision. I spoke to a young lady who went to college in Blackpool. When it came to choosing a career, she said she wanted to be an engineer. Her teachers and careers advisers said, “You’re far too clever to be an engineer. You should be a doctor or a lawyer.” She said, “Well, I can’t stand the sight of blood and the last thing I want to be is a lawyer.” She got a job as an apprentice at BAE Systems at Warton and last year was awarded the apprentice of the year award. BAE Systems sent her to university and she is now on a fast track to management within the company.
The second example is of a young gentleman who went to college in Chester. When he left Chester, he went to Oxford. He was at Oxford university for three months and hated it—he thought it was a complete waste of time and that he was spending money for no return—so he left and got a job as an apprentice at Airbus. When he had served his time at Airbus, the company sent him to university, and he is now a section leader with Airbus. He was pleased to tell me that he had just bought a brand-new Mini and had been delighted to go around on a Friday night, pick up his Oxford friends and take them out for a drink. He had been earning while learning—that is our new apprentice slogan—and so could afford to buy a new Mini, while all his friends who went to Oxford were having problems, could not get a job and had debts coming out of their ears. He was happy to take them out for a drink in his brand-new car on a Friday night.
A wide range of careers advice is required from age 11, but what can we do about it? What careers advice is being offered in our schools? I suggest it is minimal. It is minimal because many of the people giving it have only ever been teachers and unfortunately have never been in the workplace—there are jobs, particularly in Burnley, they do not even know exist. There is light on the horizon, however: there is a company in Burnley called Positive Footprints. A young lady called Lesley Burrows, along with three of her friends, Josh, Lynne and Sarah-Jane, set up this company. She is working in a couple of schools where she has set up a virtual jobcentre. From age 11, every time a child comes to school, they will walk through a jobcentre in which is displayed every job available in Burnley and the surrounding area. Those young people can see what is available and can approach one of these four people and ask them, “What is this job?” Positive Footprints can then advise them on what the job is and the child can decide whether they fancy doing it. When they reach 14, they can apply for one of the jobs, so Positive Footprints will show them how to apply for a job, how to write a CV, how to get a reference and so on. And if they really fancy that career, they can speak to the company and ask whether they can go and see what it does. In that way, the young person can be aware of what the job involves. That is the right way forward, and I see no reason why the Government should not adopt such a system to show young people what the future holds.
I am really impressed by my hon. Friend’s story about the female entrepreneurs, and by the young lady to whom he referred earlier who had decided to do an engineering apprenticeship. Does he agree that it is really important for young people to be made aware of the vast number of opportunities out there, and of the GCSEs and A-levels that will help them to fulfil their potential rather than simply do what they feel they might like to do?
I agree entirely. We need to show young people what is available in the big wide world. Unfortunately, the advice that they are being offered at the moment is coming from a narrow band of people in school and from their parents at home. There is far more in this world than those people know about.
The hon. Gentleman has referred to positive opportunities. Does he agree that it is important not to stereotype young people? For instance, not every engineering job is meant for a male; such jobs also offer opportunities for females. Does he also agree that more such jobs that were at one time thought not to be for females should now be offered to them?
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. That young lady in Blackpool was an absolute star. She and a group of young people sat round a table with me, and half of them were young ladies. They were all working at BAE Systems producing Typhoon jets, the finest and fastest jets anywhere in the world. They showed my how they fitted the enormous engines into the aeroplanes and how they wired them up for their missile systems. I was proud of what they did, and I was proud of them for doing it.
The problem is: can we afford to take these extra measures? I agree with the Government when they say that we have to chop back revenue spending. We have to cut the deficit, but this would be investment spending. We have to invest in the young people of the future. That might cost a little, but we will get a return on that investment year after year. Basically, we cannot afford not to do this. We have to be able to afford to do it; otherwise, our young people will be out of work, our industries will be bereft of quality staff and the skills will disappear as older men and women leave their jobs. I asked the biggest company in Burnley about the age profile of its skilled engineers who screw together the thrust reversers that fit on the back of the Trent jet engines that Rolls-Royce makes. I was told that their average age was 47. In another 20 years, those guys will have gone. Who will replace them? At the moment, there are very few people who could do so. We have to get on with it.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her intervention. This is happening in every business. It is happening not only in mechanical engineering but in electrical engineering and construction engineering.
We need to train young people for the future, and that starts with careers advice at school. We need to show young people what is available, what they need to do and how they can get involved with the appropriate industries. The Minister is a young woman and she knows what is going on in the world. I am confident that she will take this on board. I hope that she understands that careers advice for young people is an investment that this Government have to make.
Thank you for calling me to speak in this important debate, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Burnley (Gordon Birtwistle), who should be commended for securing the debate. Like him, my interest in these matters stems principally from my role in supporting manufacturing in Parliament, and from the feedback that he and I have received from our meetings on that subject.
In the current economic climate, in which all sides agree that youth unemployment is still unacceptably high, it follows that the issue we are discussing is of paramount importance. Governments of any political make-up have a duty of care to ensure that young people are given the best possible opportunities. Careers advice in the UK, however, is extremely patchy and often of poor quality, and frequently both. The problem has not been improved by some of the reforms that the Government have introduced.
In the short time available, my aim is to outline the two main areas where I feel careers advice is suffering: first, the fundamental lack of consistency in the offer of careers guidance to students up and down the country; and, secondly, the concerns that I and, I know, many employers have about the quality and standard of careers guidance as it relates to the needs of our economy. I will conclude by offering suggestions about what the Government could do to reverse this worrying trend.
The first area where I believe problems of careers advice lie is the fact that it is often not delivered. One of the conclusions in the Education Committee’s report, “Careers guidance for young people: the impact of the new duty on schools”, published earlier this year, was:
“The Government’s decision to transfer responsibility for careers guidance to schools is regrettable...this has led, predictably, to a drop in the overall level of provision.”
I understand that more than eight out of 10 schools across the country have reduced the careers advice provided to pupils, and that dedicated careers services have frequently been axed.
In my borough of Tameside, where my constituency is based, Government cuts to local authority budgets have meant that careers advice and guidance services for young people have been fundamentally slashed—first by 65%, and then a year later by a further 50%. The effects are already becoming clear, as a recent study by the Education and Employers Taskforce showed: 12 to 16-year-olds have widely mismatched job ambitions, with a clear lack of understanding of what jobs are out there, of how to get them, and of the pay and expectations that go with them.
It is clear that this transfer of responsibility has exacerbated a postcode lottery in careers advice, which the Government appear to acknowledge in their response to the Select Committee report, by accepting
“that some schools are still adjusting to their responsibilities under the new duty”.
The question we must ask tonight is whether pupils are getting the information they need to make informed career choices. The evidence at the moment says that they are not. This has to change.
My second point is about the quality and standard of careers advice, particularly with regard to the needs of employers. As a vice-chair of the associate parliamentary manufacturing group, I hear from many manufacturing companies that feel that young people have little or no understanding of their sector or their employability needs. Those points were vividly illustrated by the hon. Member for Burnley. Only recently, John Cridland told the Government that careers advice is on “life support”, and that not enough was being done to help youngsters in a rapidly changing job market.
It is important to remember that both pupils and employers suffer. A CBI report recently found that employers felt 55% of school leavers lacked the right work experience, with this being a real problem in the manufacturing industry—an industry that I and many colleagues believe is absolutely vital to this country’s economy.
The hon. Gentleman is making some powerful points. Like me, he is passionate about manufacturing. I would like to hear what he would suggest the Government do to bridge the gap between the needs of young people and the needs of employers. With BAE Systems in my constituency, I am passionate about that subject.
I would like to see a number of specific things applied to all aspects of career advice. In manufacturing, one of the principal things to change is the perception. I find it incredible that some people still believe that manufacturing is somehow a dirty industry and not the high-tech example that we see in BAE Systems. Challenging gender stereotypes is another highly important issue for manufacturing. What may be harder to achieve is getting it across to people that while BAE Systems and similar companies are important, it is the associated supply chain that really generates the wealth and the opportunity for jobs. My constituency predominantly has companies of that sort; it would be valuable if we could get more information out about the success of those companies, particularly in export markets where many are doing very well relative to the rest of the economy.
I am pleased that the Government have said in response to the Select Committee’s report:
“Good careers advice should be informed by labour market intelligence…grounded in the realistic context of the needs of today’s employers”.
I also welcome the commitment that there will be a
“strengthening of the relationship between the National Careers Service and Local Enterprise Partnerships.”
However, more action is needed to support such overarching themes and changes. The Government have said that in carrying out the new duties, schools are expected to work in partnership with employers as appropriate. What direct, on-the-ground support does the Minister envisage will be made available to schools to allow that to happen?
In an economic climate in which jobs are already scarce, careers guidance for 12 to 16-year-olds appears to be in emergency care. We often hear about the danger of a lost generation, and the not in education, employment or training figures are unacceptably high. Therefore, high-quality and readily available careers advice, appropriately matched to the needs of our economy, is absolutely vital. All is not lost, however; the Government can do a lot to remedy the situation. They do appear to be listening, and they have accepted that there is more to do, particularly in helping local authorities meet their statutory needs. A more fundamental change of attitude is needed, however, so that careers advice is not seen as an afterthought, but is at the heart of a child’s education—I agreed with the Minister’s heckle on the hon. Member for Burnley, that such advice must begin earlier than the age of 12.
Schools need more help—both financial help and guidance—from the Government, but it does not necessarily have to be at high cost. Crucially, to raise standards and quality across the board, I believe Ofsted should inspect careers advice in schools. I know that Ofsted has requested that, and the Government are currently reviewing it.
I hope the Government listen carefully to all that is said in this important debate. I hope that they take on board some of the constructive suggestions, which I hope they will hear. We all want a system that meets both the Government’s objectives and the needs of the employers in our constituencies, and I hope the Government will bring forward further plans to help promote that.
It is an honour to follow distinguished Members from the north-west—it is interesting to note that all those who have contributed to the debate so far, with one honourable exception, have come from the north-west of England, and that shows the enthusiasm and commitment across the House on this vital subject.
I am delighted to speak in this debate on careers advice. Like my hon. Friend the Minister, I spent most of my career in business. She fully understands the importance of enterprise, initiative and risk taking. I remember the burning passion she expressed in her maiden speech to increase the focus on maths, science and technology, and to move them from geek to chic— I agree with that, and I leave it to hon. Members to decide who has been most successful in taking that forward.
Like the hon. Member for Burnley (Gordon Birtwistle), I want to focus my remarks on careers in business, in relation to which pupils have historically not been well served by careers advice. One of the key questions children should be asked is, “Hands up, who wants to have a career in business?” In the past, the answer to that question has too often been equivocal; that answer not only shapes the life chances of young people but has a major bearing on the competitiveness of this country. It is absolutely vital that we encourage more pupils to embrace the culture of enterprise and that we signpost that career trajectory for them.
The days of careers advice being simply a one-to-one meeting between a careers adviser and a pupil in a room somewhere in a school, looking at some book, have long gone. That model is hopelessly out of date, is 20th century in its focus, and fails to notice that young people have embraced new technologies and new approaches to gathering information. I believe passionately that we need to look at completely new models to engage youngsters—practical business engagement projects, which signpost ways into careers, that are relevant to young people and to what needs to happen in the world of business.
I welcome the Government’s moves to create the National Careers Service and to require schools to secure independent careers guidance on a full range of education and training options It is also right, and critically important, that clear destination measures are published, so that we know the outcomes of such activity. I hope that the destination of many more young people will be a career in manufacturing, enterprise and commerce. Like many others, I await with interest the report of the Ofsted thematic review. I want to see how we can raise ambitions, help people to improve their skills, and raise awareness. We should never be shy of taking on those important tasks.
Sadly, according to a recent CBI survey, 70 % of employers feel that school leavers do not demonstrate enough business awareness. An Ofsted report on business education, published in June 2011, went further, saying that students taking part in business-related education often had
“only vague ideas about the economy”.
That must change.
In 2012, just 58,000 pupils in England chose to take GCSEs in business studies, whereas 70,000 took GCSEs in drama and nearly 98,000 took them in physical education. Of course, a GCSE in business studies is not the only, and perhaps not even the best, benchmark of business education, but if a dedicated course in business studies is demonstrably not appealing enough to young people, or rigorous enough to be endorsed and recognised in further and higher education, we need to think about how else we might work the thread of business, economics and enterprise into the skills set and the career trajectory.
It is a sad fact that too many of our students are not particularly likely to be “signposted” into thinking about business skills and the need for a career in business. They are also unlikely to continue their business education after graduation. I am glad that the Government have woken up to the idea that it is about time to step up a gear in the global race.
Australia has just conducted a nationwide consultation on the place of economics and business in a future-orientated school curriculum. It plans to start introducing business and economics themes into formal education at an earlier stage than was suggested by the hon. Member for Burnley, when children are only 10. Australia’s aim is to ensure that the resulting knowledge, skills, attitudes, beliefs and values encourage students to participate in economic and business activities, so that the country can compete fully in the Pacific rim. I believe that we should take every possible step to improve our own country’s competitiveness on the international stage.
It is vital that we bring more local business leaders into the classroom to put the case for business and act as positive role models. What we need and want are careers in action, not careers in abstract. Local champions can bring much-needed experience to schools, nurture talent, and excite pupils by showing them what can be achieved and how to set about achieving it. The Federation of Small Businesses has recently been trying to increase by hundreds the number of schools and colleges that engage with businesses, and is encouraging many of its members to become school governors. I believe that its work is vital. Much more can be done in schools to prepare pupils for their future careers in our future economy.
This is not just about the classroom, however. We need to build on best practice in extra-curricular activities. Exceptional work is being done at All Hallows Catholic college in Macclesfield, where enterprising students in all age groups have been encouraged to set up their own small businesses, face a “Dragons’ Den”-style panel of judges, and engage with local businesses—Manchester United, for one. When finalising their business plans and marketing strategies, they receive input from those businesses. What is more, the profits that they make are put back into the local community, and into the work that is done to support those in India who are needier and more deserving. Those amazing activities have completely changed the culture in the school.
More businesses need to come forward to engage with schools. Siemens, in nearby Congleton, recently involved local schools in a “rollercoaster challenge” to interest people—particularly young people—in engineering. Competitions such as that are practical ways of making young people think about what they could do with their careers, and about their GCSE choices. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mr Timpson), would be keen to agree that, further south in Cheshire, Bentley is providing fantastic work experience.
I could move on to talk further about apprenticeships, but time does not permit me to do so. There are so many options that we can bring to bear to help us in this vital task. Winston Churchill wrote in his inspiring book, “My Early Life” that the world was made to be
“wooed and won by youth.”
We need to embrace that sentiment in the way we provide careers advice, to help the next generation of business leaders in the UK to be not only highly skilled, but properly advised and fully motivated to improve the nation’s economic competitiveness.
We have had an interesting, if petite, debate. All Members present share a belief in the value of careers guidance, but that might not be shared by the Government Whips Office.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Burnley (Gordon Birtwistle) on securing this important debate. He spoke brilliantly and passionately about rebalancing the economy and how that might be undermined by skills shortages, with particular reference to the aerospace industry and the question of a gender divide and the number of young female engineers. I take on board, too, his point about the challenge of providing careers advice in schools. That is why the Opposition thought it was an error to take £200 million out of the previous career Connexions service, which did not serve to follow the policy through into schools.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) spoke brilliantly about patchy careers advice and the effect that can have. He rightly highlighted the critique provided by the Education Committee, which said it was regrettable that the careers advice function had been moved into schools. He spoke, too, of the axing of dedicated careers services. We have seen that right across the piece, which is why this debate is so important. The Government careers policy is directly opposed to everything the hon. Member for Burnley seeks to put in place to rebalance our economy. My hon. Friend also spoke very well about the mismatching of jobs to ambitions. We should also note the comments of the Government social mobility tsar, Alan Milburn, about young people not doing the right A-levels, and then seeking to go to university with very good grades only to find that they have been poorly advised as to what degree to pursue.
The hon. Member for Macclesfield (David Rutley) drew on his career in business to argue strongly for a more business-focused careers guidance, and for getting business advocates into schools. Like us, he is hopeful that the destination measures will provide some degree of clarity. He contrasted the business GCSE with the drama GCSE, but that was a little unfair, I think, as one of the great business strengths of modern Britain is our drama industry—our cinematic and theatrical industries. He was right, however, to urge that business advocacy in schools.
The Labour party agrees with the Education Committee that independent careers advice and guidance has never been as important for young people as it is today. We also start from the point that this is a question both of social justice and of rebalancing the economy.
It could be argued that bringing careers guidance into schools has crippled potential pathways to technical and vocational education for many students. While the academic route of following GCSE, A-level and then maybe a degree is clearly understood by many teachers, providing more specific advice about vocational qualifications, traineeships and apprenticeships, and how to marry that with a level 3 qualification, takes real knowledge and understanding of the system, which those who are asked to advise in schools might not possess. If we want greater achievement in our technical and vocational sector, we need to get talent into those quarters. Moreover, it is simply not in the interests of schools to outline alternative routes, and for a Conservative-led Government usually so attuned to the threat of producer interest, the allocation of careers advice to schools has been an own goal. Very few schools have the bravery to explain to their pupils the full diversity of further education and vocational pathways while the loss of their pupils’ funding stream is at stake. We recently heard evidence from an excellent teacher from one of the Harris academies, who said, “We bring in outside external guidance and we tell them to tell our pupils that they cannot go to the college up the road. We have no interest in losing those funding streams.” What we then lose as a country is the capacity to go down vocational and technical routes that are more complicated to pursue.
We are troubled not only by the impartiality aspect, but by issues of funding, insufficient practical guidance, a poorly defined approach to how we share best practice, a capabilities deficit and an accountability regime that is nowhere near robust enough. We look forward to the Ofsted thematic review, which I understand has now been pushed back to September, clarifying some of these issues.
On funding, the Labour party acknowledges that in the current fiscal climate it is not appropriate to provide additional funding, but the Government should not present the withdrawal of the £200 million that used to fund careers advice as consequence-free. Schools have each faced a £25,000 stealth cut as a result of this money not being transferred along with the statutory duty. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde suggested, we need to know what actions the Minister is taking to provide guidance and support, and to disseminate best practice. As I understand it, head teachers have to know the names and addresses of CORGI-registered boiler technicians for their schools, but they have no guidance about or lists of qualified careers advisers. Head teachers can fix the boiler but when it comes to their pupils’ careers they are not necessarily given the right amount of information.
Let me end by returning to the Government’s social mobility adviser, Mr Alan Milburn. He wrote:
“High-quality information, advice and guidance”—
“is crucial in helping young people to develop ambitious but achievable plans, which are more likely to lead to positive outcomes.”
He dedicated his career to improving careers services, raising aspiration and increasing social mobility, yet only this weekend he criticised the Government’s “half-hearted” and incoherent approach in this area. He said:
“I don’t get the sense that this is sufficiently part of the DNA of what this government is about”.
I very much hope that the Minister can convince us otherwise, or else we are facing exactly the kind of skills shortage and unbalanced economy that the hon. Member for Burnley so wisely warned us of this evening.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Gordon Birtwistle) on securing this debate and on his role as apprenticeship ambassador. He came up from an apprenticeship and succeeded, and that sends a good signal to young people today. I am delighted to speak in this debate. I am sure that hon. Members know that the reason my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Skills is not here is because he is so committed to Department for Business, Innovation and Skills policy that he is trialling shared parental leave.
I agree with what hon. Members have said about there being a mismatch on skills. My hon. Friend the Member for Burnley pointed out that many businesses are struggling to recruit people with skills in maths, science, technology and engineering, and we have figures suggesting that 23% of businesses have identified skills shortages, particularly in that area. One thing I am passionate about is promoting mathematics, the subject with the highest earnings premium at A-level, at degree level and beyond. One of this Government’s aims is to ensure that within a decade the vast majority of students will be studying the subject to 18. At the moment, this country has the lowest proportion doing so in the OECD. That is a major reason why we do not have enough engineers coming through, either from apprenticeships or at graduate level.
We know that an hourglass economy is developing across the globe, where higher levels of skills are going to be required of all our people. We need to ensure that students have good advice and as high an aspiration as possible from a very early age. I think it is too late to start this in secondary school; the evidence suggests that many children, especially girls, form clear ideas about the kinds of career they will go into when they are in primary school. It is very important that we see the role of primary teachers as also helping to develop aspirations and broaden horizons. I was pleased recently to speak to the Personal Finance Education Group, which, as well as talking to children about how to manage money, is also keen to talk to them about which careers will lead to the greatest long-term rewards. One thing it is very keen to promote is engineering. I am very pleased that it is going to primary schools to do that.
We are also revising the new design and technology curriculum so that there is much more of a focus on industrial application, and are working with businesses to ensure that it is flexible and can offer that. I know that many local primaries in my constituency are already doing such work and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (David Rutley) that we need to convince people that they can be chic and geek from an early age, so that more students do such subjects. I think people can be chic and geek now.
I also agree with the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) that careers must be at the heart of a school. That is why we have integrated such provision as a core duty for schools. Subject choice and career choice go hand in hand and year after year we have seen too many students closing the doors on careers they could have had by not making subject choices that keep their options open. It is entirely sensible that schools should have that duty. I was at Springwood high school in King’s Lynn on Friday and I saw the provision working well in practice. The school does tremendous research on the local and national jobs market, seeing what careers are available; encourages students to aspire at all levels; works with local employers; and runs visits to universities around the country. Each student has a teacher mentor who ensures that they get good advice all the way through. I do not think that careers advice is a one-off—it is the role of schools to ensure that they do not just talk about future careers but encourage students to choose subjects, to try harder and to work at things that will be successful in the future.
The school has independent advisers, too, and the new destination measures we are introducing give schools a strong incentive in that regard. The best schools, of course, are already doing that. What is most important, however, is something that we have not discussed enough in the debate—that is, the subject choices students make, particularly at the age of 14.
The Government have introduced the English baccalaureate, which has encouraged more students to study triple science and languages, keeping careers options open. We know that the CBI has said that 72% of businesses want students who study languages. We are also introducing the tech bac from 16 to 18 so that there is a high-value qualification, including level 3 maths and an occupational qualification. There are strong, rigorous options for technical and academic education. We are also introducing a new computing curriculum so that students learn to programme from an early age, which is vital to fill the massive shortage we have in technical occupations.
Schools have a strong incentive to deliver. I do not think that there was a golden era of careers advice. In fact, Alan Milburn, whom the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) is fond of quoting, admitted that
“throughout our work, we have barely heard a good word said about the careers work of the current Connexions service.”
That was the service provided under the previous Government.
We have introduced a national careers service, set up by the Minister without Portfolio, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), and given schools a strong role so that they can help students not just with aspirations but with critical things such as subject choice. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Schools has said that we will consider Ofsted’s thematic review of careers to ensure that we make any changes we have to make. Our aspiration is for every student in this country to use their talents to the maximum and have strong aspirations for the future.
My role as apprenticeship ambassador for the Government brought me to believe that we had to do this—[Interruption.] I am not a tsar. Russians are tsars, and I am not a Russian. I will never be a Russian.
As apprenticeship ambassador, I have met dozens of young people and I can only say that I am immensely proud of them. They are leading this country into the future. A young lady at Blackpool was told that she was too clever to be an engineer and that she should be a doctor or a solicitor, and her parents did not speak to her for a month when she went to BAE Systems. That young lady epitomises what we should have. She is top of the pile.
Speaking to those young people made me believe that we need to invest in them. We need to invest in the careers advice they need. That is not a waste of money—it is good for the country and good for social returns. For many years, it will give this country the people to drive us on in a secure future with a rebalanced economy. Let us get on with it.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the matter of careers advice in schools for 12 to 16 year olds.