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Careers Advice (14 to 19-Year-Olds)

Volume 593: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2015

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Harriett Baldwin.)

It is a privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Williams. I appreciate the opportunity to debate what I and obviously the many others present in the Chamber consider a tremendously important issue. I chair the all-party group on further education, skills and lifelong learning, and believe that reforms and further improvements to careers advice for 14 to 19-year-olds are still needed. The matter is an important one, which will clearly shape future job sectors and markets in the UK for better or worse.

Many of us will have memories of the careers advice that we received. I am sure that today it is better than it was in my day, but it is an issue that comes up pretty consistently—only yesterday I was talking to some young people when I had a visit from my local college, Sussex Downs. Careers advice is one of those issues that MPs who have employed or hired people, or been hired, know is crucial. Yet we have known for a long while that it has not been as good as many of us think it should be. It is a profoundly important issue, particularly as we are clearly in an ever-more globally competitive society.

Good and appropriate careers advice is crucial and we are not where we should be yet. There have been pluses in the past decade, but I profoundly believe that there have also been weaknesses. As I shall explain, some of what the Government have done has improved things, but there is a need to go further. As we are approaching the general election I am waiting to hear also from our Opposition Front-Bench colleague, the hon. Member for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue), whom I am delighted to see here. There are many colleagues in the Chamber and they will make suggestions, and this is an opportunity for both the Front Benchers to consider them and come up with further improvements to careers advice after the election.

We all understand that our children deserve comprehensive and fully informed careers advice, so that pupils can make informed decisions. That is more complicated now than in my day because there are many more jobs. Swathes of career opportunities exist now that did not when I was young; but that brings its own complexities. If young people are not informed properly and intelligently about the wide range of jobs, how can they make an informed choice? They cannot, and that is a terrible waste.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential that young people be given access to the kinds of businesses they might be interested in, and that that applies particularly to engineering? Then, they can get the taste for it and choose the right subjects to study in due course.

I entirely agree. Engineering is a good example, not least from a gender perspective. I still find it astonishing that even in my constituency, despite the number of engineering firms there—particularly to do with pumps, curiously enough—applications are rarely received from young women in Eastbourne. That is simply because they are not told about the opportunity.

Clearly, more needs to be done for children aged 14 to 19 so that they are better aware of the choices available after secondary school and, subsequently, sixth form or college. At the moment, according to recent research compiled by the Association of Colleges, 63% of young people can name A-levels as a post-GCSE qualification; but few could name the other choices. I find it profoundly frustrating—as I have spent the past four and three-quarter years going on about it—that, for example, only 7% of pupils could name apprenticeships as such an alternative qualification to A-levels. That is ludicrous.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. Does he agree that Ministers should prioritise the introduction later this year of the proposed new UCAS-style one-stop shop for young people who do not want to go to university—a system to prevent their entering the category of “not in education, employment or training”?

I completely agree. Such initiatives can be a game changer for many young people and improve their understanding of the length and breadth of the opportunities open to them.

To return to apprenticeships, I repeat that the research showed only 7% could name them as an alternative qualification. The challenge is that the vast bulk of teachers will obviously have gone to university. They are graduates who have become teachers. They are skilled in that area and can talk about university and the advantages of a degree. For obvious reasons they are not skilled-up in the matter of apprenticeships. They often know little about them unless they are told.

I hear from young people in universities and further education colleges in Northern Ireland that they believe careers officers—not all of them, but a lot of them—are ill-equipped to do the job. We need to address that. Another comment is that we need a closer working relationship with industry and young people. It is said that the attitude of young people coming out of education to go into work is not what it should be. If there could be day release with companies, for example, at an early stage—from 14 onwards—it would make a difference.

I concur very much with that intervention.

There is an issue to do with careers advice that I find extraordinary. We all understand the importance of good careers advice and careers officers, and I have always found it slightly odd that Governments of either side have never made a song and dance about them, or applauded or provided incentives or reward programmes for very successful careers officers. A really good careers officer can play one of the most significant of roles in a young person’s career or future. Yet I have never seen in the paper a picture of Jane Smith or John Doe as the best careers officer in the south-west, rewarded by the Prince of Wales. I hope hon. Members see what I mean; the role should be much more of a career. We should get the best people, who should be rewarded. They should be financially rewarded even better than they are, but more importantly there should be a sense that it is desirable for talented and able people to become careers officers. If we could get to that situation, it would make a difference.

To move away from that theme slightly, does my hon. Friend agree that university technical colleges provide a good launch pad for careers? Getting that training, in engineering, for instance, with the support and involvement of businesses, is in itself a useful careers advice process.

Yes, I agree, with one caveat. The principle of UTCs is good, but I would like them to be clear about working closely with further education in their area. For decades, one of this country’s challenges with the issue has been that changes and improvements have often been fragmented. UTCs are a good example of that. I admire Lord Baker’s good work on them, but some of them already appear to be acting in silos without the local FE colleges and other training groups, and that is a mistake. I take on board my hon. Friend’s intervention, but, because he has good links with the UTCs, I ask to him to remind them to work closely in partnership with others.

Partnership was mentioned, which is crucial in careers. When partnership works, we can get young people into the right jobs and give them the right opportunities to understand what is available out there across the piece with FEs, UTCs, business and schools. That gets a successful outcome, but with fragmentation in silos we do not get that.

As MPs we are often told, and we recognise, that there is a growing skills gap in the workplace. A recent piece, I think in the Financial Times, highlighted that again and we know that is a problem and a challenge. When it comes to universities, everyone holds the same qualifications after graduating and a high proportion of young people compete furiously for the same jobs, while other sectors such as engineering, which my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) talked about earlier, struggle desperately to entice and recruit people into their profession.

My whole background was in business before I entered politics and I am convinced that, nine times out of 10, the problem is ignorance: young people simply do not know about the wide range of different opportunities and jobs. There are many ways to deal with that, but they come back to why I am holding this debate: clearly, the most important professional in that regard is the careers adviser.

Young people are often misled—that is a tough word, but it is true—to believe that the only, or superior, way into a job is to take A-levels and go on to university. After the general election, I was the first MP to launch “100 apprenticeships in 100 days,” because I had a plan. It was terribly successful in Eastbourne and we have had more than 3,500 apprenticeships since, but more importantly, that galvanised the whole town around apprenticeships. Businesses large and small all got involved and the success rate has been tremendous.

I was at Dominic Hill accountancy only last week, a small company of 10 or 11 people that has three apprentices. One started four years ago and she now has the Association of Consulting Actuaries qualification. Another is two years into his Association of Chartered Certified Accountants qualification, and the brand-new one started on his ACA apprenticeship three weeks ago. When those individuals qualify as accountants—one already has—they will not be loaded with tuition fee debt. They all have jobs and I am pretty darn sure that, after they have qualified, they will stay at Dominic Hill because it is a good company, but, because their accountancy qualifications are portable, they can go anywhere. Therefore, the conversion rate is not 90% or 80%, but 100%.

I had a meeting the other day with the chief executive of AIG, the big insurance company, which is now providing apprenticeships in insurance broking and underwriting, but the vast majority of people still do not know that. The key individuals who would have that information and be able to feed that on to young people in schools and colleges are the careers advisers. Therefore, they are an absolute game changer.

I appreciate that the coalition Government have tried to address these problems, and that is laudable. The Education Act 2011 put schools under a statutory duty to provide independent careers guidance to pupils since its implementation in 2012. I also welcomed the announcement in last year’s autumn statement about the £20 million to be given to improve careers advice, and I applauded the Department for Education’s announcement in December that a careers and enterprise company is to be created to work with employers to inspire and educate pupils. That highlights the Government’s recognition that more needs to be done to improve careers guidance. We are heading in a positive direction.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. One school in Pendle that has really embraced providing impartial careers advice is Marsden Heights community college. It set up a job junction that opens on Monday and Thursday lunchtimes every week, and students employed in the dream team deliver careers advice, including discussions of the current apprenticeship vacancies in Pendle, with their fellow students. Will he congratulate schools such as Marsden Heights that have listened to what the Government have asked them to do and used their initiative to go much further in providing impartial careers advice to students?

I do applaud that; that is a really good example of partnership working locally and of a school being proactive. The colleges play a key role—I am the chair of the all-party group for further education, skills and lifelong learning—but schools are crucial. I work closely with schools in Eastbourne and Willingdon in my constituency, so I would be interested in getting some more detail from my hon. Friend to downstream that locally.

I still retain some concerns about the Government’s announcements. Will the Minister shed any further light on what the £20 million will be spent on specifically? What will the remit be for informing young people about the range of apprenticeships in the programme? Will the company work with the FE sector as well? I wait to hear from him on that.

I also note that the Secretary of State for Education took part in a session run by the Select Committee on Education that looked into the state of careers advice. We await the Committee’s report and I look forward to seeing that. More still needs to be done to highlight pathways into vocational or academic education and training.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way for a third time. This time I want to talk about destinations from schools and colleges into workplaces and further and higher education. Does he agree that a better way of measuring the performance of schools is destinations, which would in turn stimulate more involvement in schools in promoting the right kinds of careers?

My hon. Friend has intervened frequently, but with very good points. I concur totally with him. I had a discussion with the head of Cavendish school a few months ago—he is a good guy at a really good school. He said, “Stephen, if I get my brightest youngsters really focused towards A-levels and university, I get a gold star from Ofsted,”—I am paraphrasing a wee bit—“but if I start pointing my brightest and youngest towards apprenticeships, I really don’t.” That is really important. He said, “But I do that anyway.” He is from the north, so he profoundly believes in apprenticeships even though he is in Eastbourne, but that was such an important point.

The Government have to find a way to ensure that the right outcomes for our young people are properly incentivised. Without that, we rely on individual heads and teachers to be brilliant and that is not good enough. I want our teachers to be brilliant, but I have been in business long enough to know that we need processes that underpin the teachers. Funnily enough, the next line of my speech is: how are schools to be incentivised to improve their careers advice provision? I look forward to hearing answers to that from both the Minister and the shadow Minister.

The Association of Colleges recently released a report titled “Careers Guidance: Guaranteed,” which uncovered some figures. They are not rocket science or surprising to the people here—otherwise, they would not be here—but 70% of young people turn to parents for careers advice and 57% turn to teachers. That is completely logical but mad, because, with the best will in the world, parents know only about their specific area unless they are careers professionals or they have a passionate interest in discovering about all of the extra 750 careers options that we seem to have today, compared with in my youth.

I have already explained about teachers. Great though they are, the challenge for teachers is that unless they have been trained, they will only know about their specific experience. We cannot change the fact that kids will go to their parents or teachers; it is logical. Whom do they trust most? They trust their parents. However, we need systematically and profoundly to improve the situation, and to pour focus and resource into improving the careers advice of teachers and improving the careers knowledge of parents, for example, through open days—I run apprenticeship initiatives constantly—so even parents know about the different careers. If we do not do that, in 10 years’ time we will be in exactly the same boat. We will be saying, “We are doing our best with careers advice. It’s not too bad, but—”. Thirty-five years ago, when I was starting out on my business career, the phrase could have been, “Careers advice is not too bad, but—”. Broadly speaking, that is still the case and it has to change. I look forward to the Minister and shadow Minister giving me an update on their proposals.

Recent research carried out by the Local Government Association shows that the drop-out rates cost the country over half a billion pounds. That does not surprise me at all. It will always happen a bit, but I am sure that a lot of that is related to poor advice.

I pay tribute to the National Union of Students, which has been very active and supportive on the issue. It is working closely with me on a separate apprenticeship initiative. It says that because the job market is so competitive these days, it is more important than ever for quality advice to be provided to 14 to 19-year-olds, as I am sure hon. Members would agree.

In my constituency, the unemployment claimant rate has dropped to 2.8%. A lot of the reason why is not just the national economy and the push we are doing locally, but the apprenticeship initiative that has been so successful in Eastbourne. The youth unemployment figure is now 325, which is almost 35% lower than at the height of the recession.

My hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson) talked about a school hub. I would like to share something we are doing in Eastbourne with the Chamber and the Minister, because it is another example of partnership and working together that is very successful. We have the Eastbourne jobs hub, which is slightly similar to my hon. Friend’s example, although not just from a school perspective. It has partners, including Sussex Downs college, Eastbourne borough council, the county council, the chamber of commerce—it is really important to get business right in the tent. We also have a dedicated manager, and I have match funding from each of the different groups, which means that even in a difficult economic climate, the funds can be provided to run it. There are also volunteers supporting the dedicated manager. I opened the hub myself about nine months ago. It is in the library, because having something like that in a central location is really important. It is all about careers advice, recruitment and helping to guide people into different job opportunities, and it is a really successful scheme.

For me, the key thing about schools, which is why I was interested in my hon. Friend’s intervention, is that that sort of scheme needs to be done much more in schools. It is a very good way of bringing businesses into the tent. A lot of companies, small and large, really enjoy going into schools, as long as there is a structure and they know what they are supposed to do. Equally, colleges can support schools on that, because my view is that young people need to start being informed about options around the age of 14, as they do in Germany. From a young age, kids begin to learn more about the different professions and different vocational and training opportunities that are available.

I want to mention a difficulty that is raised when we speak to industry in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman has spoken about apprenticeships; what more can we do to incentivise, if that is the right word, young people to stay the course? If 10 or 15 young people start an apprenticeship in whatever career it may be, perhaps only four will finish it.

That is very important. To my mind, there are a number of things to consider. We must ensure that the Government of the day, locally, regionally or nationally, focus on that area and applaud success. Nothing is truer in life than that success follows success. I would like to see more and more young people who have been through the process, either as apprentices or at university, as ambassadors going into schools and working with local companies.

I was talking to a constituent the other day about long-term youth unemployment, the challenges of NEETs and so on. As a constituent of mine, he knows that is something I am very focused on—it is one of things that got me back into politics, as it happens. I told him that there is no point in me, a middle-aged, posh bloke in a suit, going in and talking about apprenticeships—it just doesn’t work! Although I profoundly believe what I say, and a lot of young people in Eastbourne know me, so they know I am absolutely passionate about the issue, they would listen so much more to a 19 or 20-year-old who had been through the process and was really fired up. People hear so much better those who look like them and sound like them. That is something I would like to see much more of.

Improved access to careers hubs, where colleges, schools, universities, Jobcentre Plus, and local authorities come together—many of us have such hubs in our constituencies—is a very good way of working and lifting morale and energy locally. I urge the Government to keep making progress on that, and I look forward to hearing the views of both Front Benchers.

However, as good and necessary as hubs are—I use them a lot, as do many of my colleagues—I am convinced that one good, trained careers officer who is passionate about what they do can change the world of career opportunities for young people more than anything. A careers officer who offers a real career path, and who is incentivised to find people jobs or good solid training, can change people’s lives. One day, if I am still an MP in x number of years—

Who knows? I am an optimist. I am a Liberal. I would love to find that we hear more about careers officers who have transformed people’s lives. All of us here probably know one or two teachers who have done that, who have changed our lives in some way—I certainly do. I would love to be able to say in this Chamber, the House or at an awards presentation that people are talking about careers officers who have changed their lives, as they indeed can. A careers officer who has tremendous passion for their task and a comprehensive knowledge of the range of different opportunities can be a game-changer. It is our fault that that has not happened—we are the MPs; we are the Government—and it is about time we stepped up to the challenge. On that note, I look forward to hearing my colleagues’ contributions.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd), who did well to secure this debate at an opportune time. Indeed, what better time could there be for game changing in relation to careers information, advice and guidance? Of all the things that need addressing urgently in the education landscape, this is it. I know that because the Humber local enterprise partnership asked me back in 2013 to chair a skills commission for it, and we interviewed businesses across the Humber. What they said—this was business people speaking to us, working on behalf of the LEP in the Humber—was that there was a universal need for better careers information, advice and guidance. I know from my lifetime in education that careers advice is more broken now than it has ever been, but it was interesting to hear that message coming from the business sector.

The hon. Gentleman is right in his analysis that we are in an education landscape that is more fragmented than ever, with free schools, UTCs and other things. In that fragmented landscape, created by the current Government, we need more than ever someone who holds the ring for young people and for UK plc and who is a resource of information, advice and guidance in an independent way.

The changes made in 2012 have upskittled what was there and made things much worse. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that employers are willing to get involved—by crikey they are! People working in education are also willing to get involved. There is great good will on both sides, but this will not happen until there is some resource in the middle. That is what has been taken out, what is missing. It will not happen unless there is some resource in the middle—careers advice or whatever we want to call it—that makes it happen, because people are looking at their bottom lines. The hon. Gentleman talked about the bottom line of accountability, in terms of results, Ofsted and all that, in the education sector. The bottom line of accountability for businesses is literally the bottom line of their profit and loss account. Unless we have something that will put those things together and we resource it properly, that will not happen, despite the good will on both sides, so it is crucial.

The National Union of Students captures the position in its statement that the provision of impartial, quality careers information, advice and guidance is of fundamental importance to individuals and society. It is a win-win situation. Why are we not investing in that? Why have we dismantled it?

As a result of the report produced by the Humber LEP, “Lifting the Lid: The Humber Skills Challenge 2013”, there have been good initiatives in the Humber area. There is the gold standard recognition for those parts of the Humber that are seeking to produce high-quality careers information, advice and guidance. That approach is bearing dividends. Also, as Anne Tyrrell, the principal of North Lindsey college, points out, the work that has been done on the Humber-wide portal for careers, Bridging the Gap, where information can be accessed, is making some difference. There is other good practice—for example, the work that Baysgarth school is doing with John Leggott college. Institutions are working together to make the provision of information, advice and guidance better. However, those initiatives are undertaken within a busy day, without being properly resourced from the centre.

Let us examine a few statistics from the University and College Union, to add to statistics that we have already had. Just 39% of learners surveyed said that they had spoken to a careers adviser. Less than half, 46%, of young people say that they have received group advice from a teacher at their school. Fewer still, 39%, said that they had had a talk from a local careers officer or careers adviser, and only 10% had spoken to a business professional. Those statistics paint the picture of where we are at the moment, and it is not good enough for our young people or our society.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one issue that we urgently need to address is the knowledge base of teachers themselves as to the industrial and commercial basis of their own hinterland? If some training days were devoted to acquiring knowledge of what is going on in their own territories—the industries, the commerce and the job opportunities available for the pupils they teach—surely that would pay dividends in terms of the destinations that our young people reach when they qualify.

It absolutely would and does. Schools, colleges, teachers and support staff up and down the land have undertaken that sort of activity and will recognise that it benefits them and the young people they teach or support. However, it needs to be resourced. If a teacher is going on a week’s placement in industry, someone else needs to be in front of the kids, teaching them. A cost is involved—this is not a nil-sum game. There are things to be gained and to benefit from, but resource is needed to make it happen. Good words and fine language do not make it happen. It needs to be properly resourced.

I was therefore pleased when the new Secretary of State for Education, surveying the landscape of wreckage and chaos that she had inherited from her predecessor, identified careers information, advice and guidance as one of the things that needed fixing. I felt that in her announcement on 10 December, she was making heavy weather of what needed to be done, but at least she was recognising that something needed to be there and she talked about a new careers and enterprise company being set up. I would be grateful if the Minister, in answering the debate, could update us on progress on that, because it has all gone rather quiet. What are the main priorities on which Government expect the careers company to focus? How will Government know whether the careers company is successful? What are the desired outcomes? What are the measures? What role will local enterprise partnerships have in relation to the careers company? LEPs are well placed to do the job of bringing education and the world of work together in a locality and making things happen. Properly resourced, they are absolutely in the right place to make that happen, so I would like to know how the new company will work with people on the ground so that things change for the better and we do not just see a lot of money going into the pockets of consultants and others without reaching and affecting young people on the ground.

I want to draw attention to the excellent Association of Colleges campaign “Careers Guidance: Guaranteed” to which the hon. Member for Eastbourne has already alluded. It does what it says on the tin. If we can guarantee careers guidance in a proper way for our young people, everyone will be a winner. The campaign that the AOC has been running is one that I hope everyone could sign up to. It talks about

“improved access in a locality where colleges, schools, universities, Jobcentre Plus and local authorities come together led by the LEP to form a clearly signposted careers hub. This would provide a single point of information”.

Alongside explanations of the benefits of an academic education and progression to university, those career hubs should provide young people with an opportunity to try their hand at various vocational options. They would provide that practical experience, but also provide other opportunities.

The hon. Gentleman talked about using ambassadors. I know that schools and colleges use ambassadors well, but, again, resource is needed to manage that, to make it happen, to draw people in, to lubricate the wheels. A careers information hub based within the LEP would deliver that. Together with all that, says the AOC,

“careers education needs to be introduced and embedded into the curriculum. This would give children and young people the right grounding to make informed decisions and the right choice for them. This education should include understanding different types of businesses, how stereotyping affects career decisions, the qualities needed to enhance employability and looking systematically at the choices available and what is required…for particular jobs. It should complement visits from local businesses and work experience placements.”

I shall end as I began. This issue is crucial. It is crucial to the young people in our schools and colleges, to their individual futures, but it is also crucial to UK plc; it is crucial to all of us. Let us game change, get it right and put things in place for a better future for us and for them.

Order. I hope to start the wind-ups at 10.40 am. There are four Members seeking to catch my eye, so I appeal to hon. Members to limit their remarks to about seven or eight minutes. I am not imposing a time limit, as such, but if we all discipline ourselves, everyone will be able to get in.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Williams. I congratulate my coalition colleague the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd) on securing the debate.

The report by the Association of Colleges and the statistics that it has published are interesting. During the past four and three quarter years working in South Derbyshire, I have made it a key priority to put businesses together with schools and the further education college. That was helped by the fact that I opened our further education college—until 2011, we did not have one, but we now have a good working relationship. I have also integrated the needs of businesses with future opportunities for young people by setting up a business breakfast club. I have teachers, heads and representatives from the colleges coming to my business breakfast club, because I want them to learn about what business wants pupils to learn at their schools, so that those pupils are—a phrase that I often use—oven-ready for work. That, apparently, is a novel concept. I cannot imagine why, because we had careers advice when I was at Grey Coat Hospital school, although it was not suggested that I become an MP. Fortunately, other people have sensibly suggested that their children should go there.

Many things are possible for the future. In my patch in South Derbyshire, where we have so much manufacturing, the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths links in terribly well with my manufacturing companies. They want to get involved with schools, because they want to urge them to encourage their pupils, particularly the girls, to take up those subjects and make those decisions early on at the age of 14 or 15, or 16 to 18. The whole mixture displays a can-do attitude.

I am disappointed by the statistics from the AOC. I understand why it felt that it needed to do that survey, because it highlights where we can do better. I have always tried to ensure that in the sunny uplands of South Derbyshire, we are not only a can-do area but a can-do-better area. When, for example, I get the Institute of Physics to give a presentation in schools, I do not encourage them simply to aim it at 17 to 18-year-olds, because they have more or less made their decisions about where they want to go; I try to aim such presentations at 14 and 15-year-olds, because I think that that is the key.

William Allitt school, which is in my constituency and which does not have a sixth form, is a finalist in the national science and engineering competition at the big bang fair, a massive engineering exhibition that goes on for three days in the national exhibition centre in Birmingham. It is tremendous that the school has become specialist in maths. It has sent kids over to Russia for a two-week space course. I think it is absolutely brilliant that kids in my area have such opportunities, and that they are truly reaching for the stars.

I finish by saying that careers advice is incredibly important. The announcement made by the Education Secretary in December gives us hope that there will be real changes and that careers advice will be improved. I congratulate my coalition colleague the hon. Member for Eastbourne on coming up with the brilliant idea that we need to have gold stars for careers advisers. People need careers advisers to give them the advice that enables them to say, “I could be a nurse or I could be a bank manager, but I actually want to be an engineer.”

The hon. Lady has outlined some excellent best practice in schools. She mentioned “can do” and “can do better”, but the difficulty is whether schools want to do those things, as they clearly do in the case of her schools, rather than having to do them. The problem is schools not having to do those things when it comes to the assessment of their own performance.

That is an incredibly important point. As has been mentioned, it is hardly surprising that teachers give recommendations to their pupils about going to university, because that is the route that those teachers came through. However, there are many young people who really want to go into apprenticeships. An interesting apprenticeship that has absolutely taken off is the accountancy apprenticeship, which is almost like going back to the old days of articled clerks. That is, in effect, what I did. I studied for my professional exams as an insurance broker through day release and evening classes. It was a great career. I spent 10 years in the City and thoroughly enjoyed it, living by the important moral principles of “My word is my bond” and “You don’t lie to people”. If someone can take those principles on to elsewhere in their career, that is great. Teachers perhaps are not the best people to provide such advice, but I applaud the initiatives that my schools are taking to talk to businesses and take on this new, über power-charged careers service for the future.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr Williams. I thank the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd) for securing this excellent and important debate.

I come at the matter from two perspectives. My key priority is the people of Hartlepool. There is huge potential in my constituency. We have a nuclear power station providing well-paid jobs, and there is the prospect of an additional power station in the next 10, 15 or 20 years. We have got Nissan up the road. We have got Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe. We have the largest concentration of chemical engineering anywhere in western Europe, and we have the potential for carbon capture and storage. There is massive opportunity in my local economy, and yet the Office for National Statistics report from last year on young people in the labour market shows that Hartlepool, alongside Wolverhampton, has the largest number of young people unemployed and outside education or training anywhere in England and Wales. Why is that the case? Why is there such a mismatch between potential, skill shortages and the level of youth unemployment? Careers advice has a role to play in making sure that we address that mismatch.

My second consideration is that for the last 11 months of the previous Labour Government, I was the Minister in charge of 14-to-19 reform and apprenticeships, and I had responsibility for information, advice and guidance. I was conscious that in far too many cases, careers advice was seen as a secondary activity—often even a nuisance—that took time and attention away from the core business of learning. Careers advice was often delivered as a one-off event in a single afternoon. I was keen to see a new approach, which was the purpose of the new strategy for information, advice and guidance published in October 2009. I am not suggesting that there was ever a golden age for careers guidance, but as a Minister I was keen to push it up the agenda.

As we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), the provision of careers advice to young people under this Government has got markedly worse. Reductions in funding and personnel, increases in fragmentation in the school system and organisational change, such as the dismantling of Connexions, have meant that young people often face real barriers to navigating what is on offer. Good careers advice can also be an important tool of effective social mobility. A young person should get good careers advice regardless of where they live, their background, who their parents are or who they know. That is often not the case, however, and it is a question of who they know and their connections when it comes to getting into a good career or profession.

The CBI has said that 93% young of people are not getting the careers information that they need, but good careers information, advice and guidance are needed more than ever, because the certainties of the past have gone. In my patch, my grandfather’s generation could leave school at the age of 15 on Friday and be working in the steelworks or the shipyard the following Monday, and they would stay there for 40 years. That certainty and that clear route have gone for ever. The futurist Thomas Frey has said that 60% of the best jobs in the next decade have not even been invented yet. At the same time, technology threatens a third of all UK jobs over the next 20 years, especially at the low-skilled end of the employment market. As Andreas Schleicher of the OECD has said,

“because of rapid economic and social change, schools have to prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created, technologies that have not yet been invented and problems that we don’t yet know will arise.”

In those circumstances, there needs to be much greater alignment between education policy and business and industrial policy, with effective careers advice and meaningful engagement between businesses and schools acting as the bridge, but the Government have to help. Government policy is not addressing the issue, and a narrowing of the curriculum by Ministers means that creative learning, problem solving and team building in the widest sense—enterprise education, in the widest definition, is required for the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century that will allow us to compete in the modern world—are not being championed, and careers advice is being downgraded.

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there was no golden age. The careers system that he left behind at the end of the Labour Government was pretty weak. Does he agree that there has been a failure to change the incentives in order to ensure that all schools provide first-class careers advice and guidance, as a small number currently do? One of the major things is to ensure that, in places such as Hartlepool, young people get qualifications that add value. He will be delighted, as I am, to see the number of young unemployed people aged between 18 and 24 in his constituency go down from the 1,200 when he left government in 2010 to, I think, 615 according to the latest figures. That is fantastic news, and we are seeing that transformation across the country under this Government.

The hon. Gentleman will understand that we want a universal and properly resourced careers service that is staffed by committed and professional people with the necessary breadth of knowledge and experience to be able to say, “This is what the future looks like. The potential for you, as a young person, is huge. This is what’s on offer. Let me guide you through it.” That is not happening at the moment. I have six specific, brief points.

I will be brief, I promise. First, this debate is about 14-to-19 careers advice, but providing appropriate careers advice and information about the future world of work needs to come at an even younger age. We have a pressing need to encourage more women into engineering, but all the evidence suggests that girls are put off or are pushed into gender stereotypes or pigeonholes at primary school. Encouraging and motivating eight, nine and 10-year-olds is a vital prerequisite to good engagement and effective careers guidance for 14 to 19-year-olds. What is the Minister doing on that?

Secondly, work experience is not given the importance that it deserves, and young people from families who do not have connections at the golf club, or whatever, will miss out. I was lucky, because I had two weeks at a firm of solicitors when I was 16. Those two weeks were invaluable in convincing me that there was no way on God’s holy earth that I was going to have a career in law, but being able to dip a toe in the water and being able to try different things is important. The Government need to recognise that and ensure that work experience is given more priority.

Thirdly, as the hon. Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) mentioned, destination data and employment and training routes for young people should be considered a key part of school reporting and evaluation, and they should even form part of the remuneration packages of the head teacher and senior school management. We should ensure that a wide and impartial range of advice is given, rather than pushing pupils towards a certain end, but that is not happening at the moment.

Fourthly, face-to-face guidance is effective and wanted by young people. Online research is valuable, but it should not be seen as a substitute for face-to-face discussions, particularly with professionals. The Government need to address that.

I thank the hon. Gentleman. Does he agree that the sooner face-to-face advice occurs, the better? All too often, face-to-face advice is only a one-off and very late in the day at age 15 or 16. It should happen early in secondary education.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that face-to-face advice should be a key thread running through young people’s education, evaluation and experience.

Fifthly, impartial advice is important, and it is not given in far too many cases, particularly for 11 to 18-year-olds. Schools may be pushing pupils towards the sixth form when they would rather consider a vocational or apprenticeship route.

Sixthly, we should value careers professionals. As the hon. Member for Eastbourne said, they are vital professionals who can navigate young people through a tricky and complex world. We should treasure them a lot more. For far too long, careers advice has been a secondary consideration, somehow as an add-on. In the modern world of work, we need a knowledge-based economy. We do not know what the future looks like, so careers advice needs to be much more central to this country’s education offer.

As ever, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Williams. I strongly congratulate the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd) on securing this debate on a crucial subject. I represent one of the youngest constituencies in the country. I can barely walk down the street, and I can certainly never visit a school or educational establishment, without young people directly raising their concerns and demands about the careers services that they want. I am here to speak for them.

I completely endorse the comments of most hon. Members who have spoken today. Young people tell me that they want face-to-face guidance when they need it. That is particularly important in my constituency because many young people do not have connections. They do not have parents with understanding and knowledge of the modern world of work. Many of them have come to this country, and perhaps their parents do not have good English.

On Monday, I was at the KPMG City academy in my constituency with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt). A year 12 pupil told us that she wants to be a doctor but that her mother is a single parent. She said, “I don’t have the connections that some of my friends in the school have.” The school helps to provide her with the connections that help to level the playing field. KPMG and the City of London sponsor the academy, and KPMG helps to provide her with support—other pupils also have mentors through KPMG. Those business links, as my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) said, are vital.

When I talk to businesses in the community and head teachers, one of the key things they mention is linking those businesses with individual pupil achievement in the school, as well as giving pupils a view of the world of work. That is more complicated than simply careers advice, but I have always supported embedding business connections in schools, and it is one of the reasons why I am broadly in favour of the academies programme.

On careers advice more specifically, I am delighted to have worked from the outset with the charity My Big Career. We found each other because I had been working to encourage professionals in my area to become the family for young people in Hackney who do not have their own connections. I got professionals and sixth-formers into networking events, where they shared notes and found each other. Those young people made their own connections.

The redoubtable Deborah Streatfield decided to set up My Big Career because she is a professional careers adviser working in the private sector and, as well as the private school that employs her, she is often privately commissioned by parents. She realised that the careers advice in many state schools was not of the same standard, so she set up the charity. Happily, I was able to secure office space in Cardinal Pole school in my constituency, which now has an outstanding sixth form. Deborah Streatfield has been offering face-to-face advice, and it is not just her. She has been getting in volunteer careers advisers and, crucially, professionals from business who are trained to give the right kind of professional advice to pupils.

The charity also offers a results day service, which was so effective last year. Shockingly, it was the first time in Hackney’s history that pupils received a results day service from volunteers trained to go in at 7 o’clock in the morning so that young people who had missed a grade could access discussions with universities. For example, four young people who would not have got on to their nursing degree did so because of that input, which should be standard. That happened because a professional, qualified careers team was there at that point.

Young people tell me that they want such advice. For many young people, face-to-face advice is so important because they are just not getting it through other routes. The key thing about My Big Career is the service’s high-level professionalism. I echo the point raised by other colleagues that we need good, properly qualified careers advisers.

I also echo the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) about ensuring that teenagers make the right choice early on. One of the things that My Big Career has discovered is that many young people are being encouraged, quite rightly and effectively, to get a good GCSE in maths, but for many a C grade was just not enough for the course they wanted to take at university. They needed a B grade, and even many heads of maths did not understand the significance of a B grade for the future career choices of their pupils. Bright, able and capable sixth-formers were finding that that one dropped grade in GCSE maths was limiting their future career options. That goes to show that the professional understanding of good, qualified careers advisers makes a difference throughout a school, not just at 14.

The Government have thrown money at careers advice. At one level, we should accept the £20 million that has gone to the careers company, but I have serious questions about how that has been tendered and whether it is really best at national level. There is no road map for how the careers company will deliver good quality careers advice throughout our educational establishments. I hope the Minister can give us more information, because we are all desperate to know how that will help people in Hackney, Hartlepool, Scunthorpe and around the country. I want to know how we will be monitoring the independent advice and guidance provided directly by schools, because the quality varies enormously, as we have heard.

I, too, have a list of asks for the Minister. First, as the hon. Member for Eastbourne described, we want a clearer set of requirements on appropriate and good guidance. We do not have a common set of standards at the moment, and it is vital that we do. It is not fair that a young person going through a school—sometimes a very good school—might have their future completely altered by the lack of quality careers advice. We want a common standard.

Crucially, we need really good evaluation of what works and quality control. The key thing is the bit in the middle, which my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe talked about—the broker between businesses and young people. The broker could be the careers adviser, but there could be work placements. Rather than young people just being thrown at work placements that have been brokered by a careers service, they could say, “I want to do this, and I need to know who I can speak to so I can go and do that particular role.”

I represent Shoreditch, which the Prime Minister and the Chancellor called “tech city”. It is a hub for future jobs and growth in this country, but most of the jobs in Shoreditch do not exist as such. They do not have job titles, because they are so new and emerging. I can sometimes broker the connections, because of the peculiarity of an MP’s role, where we see a lot of different things. We need to make sure that our teachers and particularly our careers advisers are aware of the opportunities and can make those links. That crucial bit in the middle is the broker. When the broker finds a young person with a particular skill, the broker will know how to make the two or three phone calls that will get the young person the connection to the career opportunity that they can really learn from. We also need to see greater stability of funding so that we can be sure there is a career path for good quality careers advisers.

I welcomed the Government’s decision to include outcome data as a key part of schools. We still do not have much of an update from the Department for Education on how it is going to work. Many schools in my area feel challenged about how they are going to deal with it. I believe—I represent Shoreditch, so I would—that good, well-worked-up software that would allow alumni to be tracked and, crucially, give alumni something back in terms of networking, could be very useful. I have been talking to UBS, the bank that sponsors the Bridge Academy in Hackney. There is a real opportunity to be grabbed, but it needs to be fleshed out. I hope the Minister will do so.

I have mentioned the issues about grade B maths. Such issues underline the need for clear understanding throughout schools of how early choices can affect careers and damage career options. The Government need to ensure that that is embedded through a set of standards.

I have set out my asks. Careers advice is crucial. My young people in Hackney want action. They want to see the best provided to all and I back them in that.

Order. We have two further speakers wishing to catch my eye, and we have seven minutes, so please do the maths yourselves.

Thank you, Mr Williams. I will make a few comments in the short time I have. I congratulate the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd) on securing the debate. It is good for us all to have an input. As a Northern Ireland Member of Parliament, I am conscious that we need to cater for access to careers advice that teases out options for every young person, so that they are not left feeling at sea about where life is going to take them. Everybody is good at something in life. My wife can provide a list of things that I am not good at around the house, but I am glad to say that when it comes to the issues for students we need to do something for them.

We have a nation of ambitious, driven and generally hopeful youths who have clear careers aspirations. There are two worries. First, there is still a group that is unsure about which path to take and needs guidance. Secondly, the access that we give to careers is not keeping up with the ambitious demands of young people, and, as a result, they are misguided or misled through a lack of information about the relevant qualifications and steps needed for them to succeed in their goals.

With young people today so impressively strong-minded, it is not necessarily true that the ambitions for their career paths were even founded through educational institutions or careers services advice. That is not to say that there are not young people under pressure from others about what they feel they should do, perhaps following the example of friends or expectations of family members. Although it is good to be encouraged and motivated to achieve, access to an individual, driven careers service can help avoid career paths that are not suited to the individual. We need to have the right direction for students to go in, which is the thrust of what has been said so far.

One of the local grammar schools in my area, Regent House, has implemented a career strategy whereby the mock results for exams were handed over to the children all at once in an envelope, and then the children were taken and given careers advice based on their results. That is the way forward. It has shown that there is a better way of doing things and perhaps a better way of encouraging greater study.

I believe that between the ages of 14 and 16 aspirations start to take full form. Access to careers advice should not rely solely on broad advice, but should be specific. A flaw that has been recognised is that young people are advancing down career routes when they are not fully aware of the qualifications needed. Some have no clear vision of where they want to go in employment, resulting often in an exit from the education system because they cannot see what it can do for them.

I am conscious of the time, but I will make this point. Within this particular group, the concern is that there is not enough advice pushing for these individuals to acquire work experience, interview skills and CV-building capabilities. Simply sitting down with someone and talking through their aspirations so that they are aware of the expectations and relevant qualifications needed would help.

For those leaving school and going to further education colleges, the route they see for themselves is often more vocational or based on learning a trade. In the Northern Ireland strategy for apprenticeships, we recognised that, through apprenticeships, we can ensure and enable mobility within a sector and across the wider economy by including a breadth of training beyond the specific needs of a job, through both on and off-the-job training. The South Eastern Regional college in my area gives great advice. The universities in Northern Ireland have been lucky enough to keep student fees low, but at the same time we need to be able to ensure that those who want scholarship programmes are aware of how to source funding.

In conclusion, we cannot let our best, youngest and brightest be hindered in reaching their potential because they did not know how to get there. We must ensure that the best advice is available to the greatest number of children, and this is something that our education system must ensure is available as a right and not as a bonus. That is why this debate is so important.

Thank you for fitting me in, Mr Williams. I am afraid I was not originally down to speak because I was chairing the Education Committee this morning.

Careers advice and guidance is such an important topic. The Select Committee produced a report. People are listening to thoughtful speeches from many colleagues, but the heart of the problem is a simple one. It does not come out in myriad reports that have been produced on the subject, or indeed in enough speeches given by colleagues in the Chamber. The problem is that there are insufficient incentives for schools to take the matter seriously. That is why 80% of them do not. It is simple: they do not have to take it seriously. No one loses their job and no one gets fired or publicly humiliated for failing to do it properly, but they do if five good GCSEs are not achieved. We therefore have to change the accountability regime and have a high-stakes environment in which someone very easily gets publicly humiliated or sacked. That is the central problem.

We need a better balance—perhaps a nudge that does not simply add further burdens on leaders within schools and colleges, but addresses the central problem. The Committee did not have any perfect solutions, but we said—I will say this to the Minister—that schools should at least be made to publish their careers plan, so that parents and employers can have a look at it. Ofsted could check in advance. Hard-working Ministers could sit in Whitehall, as I know my right hon. Friend the Minister for Schools often does late at night, and look at it on the website.

The Government helped to fund a quality in careers standard for schools. It exists, so we can make schools work towards it and keep to it. I know it is bureaucratic—a bit input-esque—but we have not got great destinations data yet and we do not have another solution, so we have to give it a nudge. Let us not have any more reports from the alphabet soup of organisations. Teach First has done one this week that has some good stuff in it, but the central issue is that schools are not incentivised to take the matter seriously, and they have perverse incentives such as filling their sixth-form places, which means they will not even let colleges in.

Let us address the incentives, get the framework right, stop faffing around with all the other talk, and we could make a real difference to the lives of children. It is worth looking at what happened under the previous Secretary of State, who, it is fair to say, was pretty dismissive of this agenda, but he was not dismissive of the need to raise standards in schools, to challenge the low standards that prevailed for too long, and to put in place a pressure on the system to get people to sit for qualifications and do a curriculum and syllabuses for exams that matter to people and were of some value. That is already starting to pay off. Combined with an economic plan that focuses on enterprise and growth, we see transformations.

I am sad to say that for those who are trying to be fair-minded, those transformations do not get properly reflected in speeches by Opposition Members. I admire enormously the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), as I do all the Opposition Members in the Chamber, but he does not mention that youth unemployment in his constituency has gone from more than 1,000 when the Labour party left office—there were more than 1,000 young people in his constituency who were scarred for life by unemployment, because we know that youth unemployment scars people for life—to 425 today. Similarly, in Hartlepool, about 600 young people’s lives have been transformed by a Government who are delivering and not just talking. The youth unemployment figure there has gone from 1,200 to 600, so another 600 young people have had their lives turned round. In south Hackney, the youth unemployment figure is down from 750 when Labour left office—750 young people just sitting there—to 250 today. That is all great news.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd) on raising this important topic. I also congratulate all the hon. Members who have spoken; their speeches demonstrate the importance of this subject.

Careers advice is “broken”; it is on “life support”; and the Government show a “reluctance” to take it seriously. Those are not my words as an Opposition Member; they are the words of the CBI and the Skills Commission. Also, the Education Committee has been fairly critical; in 2013, it described

“the worrying deterioration in the overall level of provision”.

That is all pretty damning, because careers advice is absolutely vital, as I think we have heard from everyone who has spoken today.

Young people need to know what the options are—not only which A-levels to take or which university to go to but what training they may need to become an engineer or to work in IT. They also need to know what the emerging jobs market in their area is, and what they need in order to access the full range of education and training options, as the Association of Colleges has said in its excellent report. But what have the Government done? They have pushed the responsibility for careers advice on to schools and colleges.

Schools must provide access to impartial careers advice for young people aged between 14 and 19. They are told that this advice should be independent and involve outside providers. However, the schools have a vested interest in keeping up the number of students studying A-level courses, to ensure a viable number if they have a sixth form of their own; in some cases, the survival of a school’s sixth form depends on the school keeping those students. I have heard from some sixth-form and further education colleges that they are being denied admission to schools, and consequently they are not being allowed to give the full range of options to students.

Many teachers follow the academic route so they do not have experience of the world of work, know the local economic conditions in their area or understand the range of experiences that are offered by going down the “earn and learn” route. Indeed, I have heard from some young people about the pressure they are under to stay on at school and take A-levels, rather than starting apprenticeships. One young person told me that they were ostracised by the school when they said they wanted to do an apprenticeship. Another particularly savvy young person said to me, “I’m just seen as a walking pot of money.”

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising the issue of apprenticeships. The TUC and Unionlearn have said—I think it was in the past few days—that they completely oppose the Labour party policy to abolish level 2 apprenticeships. Will the Labour party look at that policy again? Level 2 apprenticeships, where they transform income and provide high-quality training, should be retained; we must not lose this vital building block in providing support to young people.

I will not go into that issue too far, but I will say that level 2 will not be branded as apprenticeships, and the training will certainly not be going; it will be a pre-apprenticeship. However, that is a different issue.

It is no wonder, therefore, that careers advice is simply not being provided. Three quarters of schools that Ofsted visited were not providing adequate advice—so far, not so good. And what else has happened? We have heard about the new careers and enterprise company, and a number of questions have been asked about it. I wonder whether the job it will do is already being done. The Chairman of the Education Committee, the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), who is here today, has said:

“It is clear that the…new body replicates the very role and remit of the National Careers Service...and only the leadership and governance is different”.

I would like to hear more about what will happen with that situation.

The fact is that we need more than an unenforced duty on schools, which simply leads to buck-passing. One in three teachers say they do not have the right expertise and resources to adequately provide effective information, advice and guidance. We need a complete rethink about how we deliver careers advice to young people, and rebuilding the careers advice service will be an early and vital priority for a Labour Government. Fragmentation and short-term and unsuitable initiatives are absolutely endemic. We need a careers service that is modelled around what provides the best outcomes for the young person and for the country, because young people are our future work force, as we have heard today. We need a careers service that guarantees that face-to-face, one-to-one guidance is available for all young people who need it, and that ensures that businesses and employers are linked in with it, the importance of which we heard about from my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin).

Building closer links with industry is absolutely vital, but I would like to add my support for the face-to-face guidance, as somebody who has worked in providing face-to-face advice, even if it was not in this sector. Websites can help many young people, but many more will need face-to-face contact. The level of contact may well be different: it may just involve initial contact, or there may be contact that takes young people further through the process. As Centrepoint has said, particularly young people who have little parental support, as well as those with poor literacy or who have other support needs, may need more assistance.

Working together is the other watchword. That is why I support the idea of careers hubs, which we have heard about from a number of hon. Members today. I visited the Bristol campus of South Gloucestershire and Stroud college the other month. The college has an excellent careers hub, working with schools across the area—independent schools, academies, state-controlled schools and primary schools—and providing one-to-one advice from professional careers advisers, which it employs. The college is the point of contact for all employers, it works with the local enterprise partnership, and it is considering expanding its service. It is an excellent model for the careers advice of the future. If such hubs were rolled out across the country, they could provide a single point of information about careers advice and career options in each area and employ the professional careers advisers whose work is so valuable.

Careers hubs could also co-ordinate work experience. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) how important work experience is for young people. Currently, however, work experience provision is another postcode lottery.

A taster session of work experience is valued by young people and employers, but not enough employers are incentivised to provide them, even though they can provide real benefits, including introducing the reality of work to young people. My daughter found that out on her first day of work. Horrified, she told me when she came home, “The manager told me what to do, and d’you know what? It wasn’t sensible!” I thought, “That’s a good life experience for you.”

Taster sessions also allow students to consider a wider range of roles than they may have been told about. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool said, young people put their toe in the water and they might not like it. However, they might like it, especially if taster sessions give them a wide range of roles to consider. It is also indisputable that if people have an early experience of work, they are less likely to end up unemployed and more likely to get better jobs and earn more money. However, at the moment less than half of young people have access to high-quality work experience. We have really fallen behind countries such as France in this regard.

We also need to work more with employers to break down some of the barriers faced by young people who are perhaps harder to place than others, including those with disabilities, in order to dispel the preconception that the employers themselves may have that those young people cannot do the jobs that are on offer. A careers hub could help those young people, as well as others who are perhaps more in the mainstream.

We believe that destination tracking is another activity that should be taken further. Schools actually have a responsibility for their pupils that goes beyond simply where they go on leaving school. A young person who goes to university and drops out in the first term because the course is unsuitable for them is not a success; a young person who takes an apprenticeship and completes it is a success, and should be celebrated as such. We therefore need to track destinations for much longer than we do now. Also, there has been a worrying rise in the number of “unknowns” recorded by the local authorities. We not know where those people are, which is a concern from a safeguarding point of view as well.

Our young people are the work force of the future, as we have heard before; we rely on them to pay and look after our pensions, basically. They need to be given every opportunity to have a worthwhile and satisfying career, and to develop their skills throughout their working lives. If we do not give them access to advice at the beginning of their working life, when they are thinking about what work to do, in order to help them navigate the confusing landscape of the world of work, which is becoming ever more confusing, we are failing them. In fact, we are not only doing that but we are jeopardising our future economic success as a country.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Williams. This has been an excellent debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd) on securing it and congratulate all hon. Members on their contributions. However, I am clearly not able to respond to every question asked and every point raised.

I start by observing that, as the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) said, there has never been a golden age of careers advice and guidance. I think we can all agree about that. He is a former Minister in this field and took office at the end of a long Government full of largesse, so I think he will have noted that large Government budgets have not proved to be the solution to the lack of advice and guidance. He made a perfunctory reference to Connexions, but nobody has come up to me, either since I was elected to Parliament or since I was appointed to this job, and mourned the scrapping of that service. There may well have been good intentions behind it, but the reality is that it achieved very little, with a relatively large budget. When we faced the largest peace time budget deficit in our history, it was a right and proper economy to make to get rid of Connexions as it was then constituted.

There was never a golden age and, certainly, the previous Government did not manage to produce a system of careers advice and guidance that led to high-quality advice for young people throughout the country and in all schools. We as a Government have recognised that, thanks to the good work done by my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), the Chairman of the Education Committee, and others, and have taken steps to ensure that schools are more focused on their responsibilities. Hon. Members have mentioned the introduction of statutory guidance requiring schools to provide independent advice and guidance. We certainly recognise that too few schools are doing so. There were many calls from Opposition Members for proper resourcing for this. However, there is a difficulty here, because proper resourcing means more money either dedicated to or ring-fenced for the provision of careers advice and guidance and the employment of more careers advisers. In that case, Opposition Members have to answer questions—I know they never like doing so—about what other things they are going to cut, what taxes they will raise or what borrowing will be increased to provide that resourcing; otherwise, that resourcing will have to come from within the existing schools budgets.

The reality is that good schools of all kinds—grant-maintained schools, academies, and all kinds of schools—realise that it is critical for them to make an investment from their budget and employ a careers adviser or co-ordinator. Lots of different models work. Good schools realise that this is a priority and there is nothing stopping any school deciding to invest some of their resource in proper advice and guidance.

Just for the record, the Committee did not call for additional money. It recognised that, in an ideal world, it might have been a good thing, but that the most important thing was to change the incentives for schools, because the fact that 20% of schools can find the budget—they tend to be successful schools delivering outstanding academic results as well—shows that it can be done. In fact, those things are mutually enhancing.

If the Minister wanted a crude proxy for the success of the education system—I remember saying this to the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) when he was a Minister in the Labour Government—it would be how many young people end up as NEETs. I am pleased that the number in the shadow Minister’s constituency has gone from 900 when Labour left office to 140 today.

Of course, I am always particularly grateful to my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Select Committee. I will come on to his point on incentives, which is a good one.

Probably the most useful thing I can do for hon. Members who participated in this debate is to answer some questions about the new careers company, because I understand that although people are broadly and in principle supportive of it, they question how it will fit into the landscape and particularly what its relationship with or functions relative to the National Careers Service will be.

The key point about the new careers company is that we observed that there is no shortage of organisations offering high-quality activity. Straight after this debate I am meeting the people who run Inspiring Futures, which is an excellent programme with speakers for schools and any number of online resources. Of course, the National Careers Service provides high-quality advice to lots of young people as well as to adults. There is no shortage of provision, but schools face great difficulty understanding what is available, what is high quality and what would really meet the identified needs of their young people.

The point of the careers company, under Christine Hodgson, is to create a structure whereby every school has somebody it can ask to help it through this forest and identify the resources and the providers who will help provide a much better range of experiences and inspiration to young people. It will focus initially on mapping what is out there, because people have to know that before they can start offering guidance. It will then focus on Lord Young’s excellent idea, in his report to the Prime Minister, of appointing an enterprise adviser. That person will be a current or recently retired local executive from the public or private sector, who will be attached to a school and whose role will be to help it identify local businesses and employers that can come in to the school and provide work experience, and resources relating to programmes relevant for the school. A school will identify that local enterprise adviser with the help of their local economic partnership.

I agree with those who have said that local economic partnerships have an obvious role to play in helping schools understand who out there can help them deliver on their duty. I do not think many teachers or head teachers are failing to provide careers advice and guidance because they do not believe in it; it is because they are busy and not particularly qualified to do it. It is no criticism of them to suggest that. They need some help. As we have heard, a plethora of local business executives is only too willing to get involved. However, we need some structure of brokerage in that regard and some guidance to schools on how they can give better advice and guidance to their young people.

Those will be the two main priorities for the careers company. It will have a small pot of money of about £5 million—a small part of the £20 million—from which it will be able to back new ideas for new kinds of experience and advice and guidance. That will act more as a sort of seed fund or a venture fund. It will also work more long-term on Lord Young’s other idea, which is for an enterprise passport that would probably be an online record of all of the non-formal educational achievements of a young person—all the volunteering and holiday jobs they have done, all the clubs they have joined and all their other extracurricular achievements at school—so that employers have an objective record of the full range of a young person’s contribution to their community when judging their fitness for school.

In the final minutes of this debate I should like to focus on the point of careers advice and guidance, although I am happy to answer in writing any questions from colleagues about the careers company. The point of careers advice is to lead to a career, and the point of every career is to have a series of satisfying and fulfilling jobs. I hope that every hon. Member of every party will recognise the signal achievement of this Government, which is to have created more jobs in Yorkshire—as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Employment reminded us—than have been created in France, and to have created more jobs in the United Kingdom than have been created in the whole of the European Union.

The key to a career is having an economy that creates jobs—new jobs in new sectors, requiring new young people with new skills. Of course, they need advice and guidance, and of course they need clear data that help them understand which choice of qualifications leads to which possibilities regarding a career. However, ultimately, without an economy that is creating employment at the speed we have been doing so in this country, there is no point having even the best careers advice and guidance in the world. Right now, even with fantastic careers advice and guidance, someone who has the misfortune to be a young person in Spain will have a pretty small chance of having a fulfilling career because youth unemployment there is pushing 40%.

Let us remember the point of careers advice and guidance, which is to guide people on to a path that will give them a satisfying range of jobs in the economy, creating jobs like no other.