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House of Commons Hansard
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Careers Education (CBI)
01 December 2014
Volume 589
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3. What recent discussions she has had with the CBI on careers education in schools. [906331]

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One of my priorities is to ensure that more of our young people are leaving education with the skills to succeed in modern Britain. In October, I hosted a round-table discussion with employers and education sector representatives, including the CBI, on this important issue. We are consulting representatives to examine what further steps we can take to prepare young people for the world of work more effectively, and to ensure that businesses are engaging with schools in meaningful ways.

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The CBI business manifesto was published last month. It highlights

“the shameful state of careers provision in English schools”.

It emphasises that girls in particular are losing out, but states that everyone is suffering as a result of what seems to be the virtual collapse of careers education. Why has the situation been allowed to get this bad, and what is the Secretary of State going to do to fix it?

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I agree with the right hon. Gentleman; I was particularly struck by the paragraphs about the state of girls’ education and aspirations:

“We’re losing out on the contribution women can make because too many girls at school, college or in the workplace are writing off—or are written off from—particular jobs for no good reason…Choices should not be closed off to anyone, and the full facts about earnings and opportunities need to be available to all, especially women.”

That is why one scheme—there are many others—that this Government are supporting is the Your Life campaign, which is supported by more than 200 leading representatives from businesses, education, civil society and government to show how science and maths can lead to exciting and successful careers.

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Will my right hon. Friend join me in impressing on local schools the importance of work experience? Will she also congratulate the York, North Yorkshire & East Riding local enterprise partnership on the work it is doing in placing people on work experience and giving careers guidance, together with local employers?

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I thank my hon. Friend for her question. She rightly says that work experience is extremely important, and I pay tribute to the role that LEPs play—both her own and many others across the country. We are working to make the whole education system much more closely linked to the world of work, with more relevant respective qualifications, more emphasis on learning useful skills and greater employer influence over course content.

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Will the Secretary of State work with the Association of Colleges to help deliver its call for a careers guidance guarantee?

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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his suggestion and I shall certainly take a look at that. I work closely with the college in my constituency in Loughborough. I will work with any organisations and do anything that will raise the aspirations of our young people and prepare them by giving them the skills they are going to need for life in modern Britain.

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When I grew up and went to school in Herefordshire in the 1980s, we had a widespread and comprehensive careers service. That has changed under successive Governments, yet I meet more and more young people who are unsure, post-qualifications, what they want to do with their lives. What can we do to ensure that local and national employers, particularly Her Majesty’s armed forces, get access to schools?

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I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend says. At the base of his question is the point that there is no such thing as a career for life any more and that we are all going to have to think about the skills we need to take the first job and then the next job, be it in the armed services, the public services, in business or through being self-employed. There are many examples of excellent schemes across the country where businesses and schools are working together, and our task is to make sure that that good practice is replicated throughout the country.

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Quality careers advice is essential to support young people in making the right choice, be it academic or vocational. However, recent figures on youth apprenticeships confirm the concerns we have been raising for some time that Government policy is damaging the apprenticeship brand and leaving young people behind. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey) is right to call out the Government on their failure to deliver for young people. Will the Minister explain why they have failed to deliver on apprenticeships as a quality route for young people entering the work force?

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That is an extremely disappointing question because it bears absolutely no relation to the facts. We have the lowest number of NEETs—those not in education, employment or training—ever on record; and we have more 16 to 18-year-olds starting apprenticeships. The hon. Lady should not be talking down our young people and their opportunities—she should be talking them up. Our young people are learning fantastic skills. I do agree with her that the links between vocational and academic education should be treated completely equally. That is exactly what this Government have done with the delivery of almost 2 million more apprenticeships.