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Careers Advice

Volume 587: debated on Monday 27 October 2014

One of my priorities is to ensure that young people leave school prepared for the world of work and able to take advantage of the opportunities available to them. As my hon. Friend the Minister for Skills and Equalities has just said, we want to see improvements to the quality of careers advice available to young people, with many more schools and employers working together to provide excellent support. We have already made a number of changes in this area, including issuing revised statutory guidance to schools.

But the Minister of State was reminded earlier this afternoon that the CBI had described careers advice and education as being on life support. That is generous in that it presumes that any support at all is being given to careers advice. Given that the National Careers Council, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and, most recently, the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission have expressed genuine concern about what is happening, will the Secretary of State put in place a monitoring process and, at the very least, instruct Ofsted to give no school a mark greater than “requires improvement” if its careers education and advice is not up to scratch?

As the right hon. Gentleman said at the end of his question, we already have a monitoring process, which is that Ofsted has a duty to look at the independent careers advice available to schools. I would not want to say that everything is all sorted out and that there are not patches across the country, but I would just point out that a recent survey carried out by CASCAiD, a careers advice company in my constituency, said that, I think, about 86% school students said they had already had access to some form of careers advice. He is right, however, to say that there is more we can do.

On Friday. alongside the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) and the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) I helped to launch the Humber careers gold standard, a new programme developed by the Humber local enterprise partnership to provide a rigorous but realistic framework to encourage the delivery of impartial, relevant and inspiring careers guidance for young people that will be rolled out across schools in the area. Will the Secretary of State encourage schools and colleges to participate in the Humber careers gold standard, and will she monitor its performance so that we can derive lessons for the nation as a whole?

I thank the Chairman of the Education Committee. I encourage schools and colleges to take part in the Humber careers gold standard. I think my hon. Friend’s more general point is that there are already some exceptional schemes across the country and we need to harness them. We need to work with businesses, employer organisations, schools and colleges to ensure that such opportunities are available to all students right across the country.

I was pleased to join the Chair of the Select Committee at the launch of the Humber careers gold standard. Does the Secretary of State agree that regional hubs may well be part of the way forward for better quality careers information, advice and guidance, but that they need to be properly funded? Will she make a commitment to ensuring that they are properly funded?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that regional hubs offer an important opportunity for schools. I hope that all hubs are working in particular with local enterprise partnerships, which offer great opportunities. Many of them have already bid for skills projects as part of the city deals and regional growth funding granted by the Government. I shall certainly look at the funding, but I would never like to pre-empt any Treasury approvals.

Does the Secretary of State agree that evidence of effective careers advice can be seen in the increasing numbers of pupils taking STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and maths—which is important in meeting the needs of industry? Will she join me in congratulating Rugby high school in my constituency where, in the past three years, the number of those taking maths at A-level has increased by 50%?

I certainly congratulate all those involved at Rugby high school in encouraging our young people to take maths and to continue to study all maths and science subjects. As we have already heard, it is absolutely essential that our young people continue to study STEM subjects, because there is a real need for them among the businesses in our economy.

We are seeing the impact of the Government’s woeful record on careers in their flagship early years apprenticeship scheme. Figures I have uncovered show that, despite Ministers doubling the bursary, just 38 people applied in the first six months. The Government were aiming for 1,000. The scheme has now closed. The Government have dismantled careers services, leaving no pipeline to get the best young people into this important scheme to improve quality in the early years. What lessons does the Secretary of State draw from this appalling experience?

I do not think that 1.8 million apprenticeships is anything to be sniffed at. In fact, the Government have created more apprentices and we are committed to creating 3 million more in the next Parliament. As for what the hon. Lady says about careers advice, we have already, as from 1 October, extended the National Careers Service. Ofsted is expecting careers guidance, but I have already said that there is more to do in terms of building partnerships between employers and schools.