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Business and Work Experience

Volume 597: debated on Monday 15 June 2015

6. What assessment she has made of the adequacy of current arrangements for key stage 4 students to access business and work experience. (900300)

Ensuring that young people leave school or college prepared for life in modern Britain is a vital part of our plan for education. We have put more emphasis on mastering vital skills and on more respected qualifications, and we have given employers greater influence over the content of courses, so that young people have the skills that universities and employers value. One reason I am delighted to continue as Secretary of State is that I can continue to make progress with the new employer-led careers and enterprise company, which will help young people access the best advice and inspiration by encouraging greater collaboration between schools, colleges and employers.

That sounds all fine and dandy, but the Government’s dropping of mandatory work experience from the school curriculum has not helped the small businesses I speak to in Blackpool, which want to take young people on. Nationally, the British Chambers of Commerce found that three quarters of employers were worried about a lack of work readiness. Will the Secretary of State make a fresh start and bring forward substantial initiatives to improve work experience, thereby making apprenticeships more accessible to 16 to 19-year-olds?

I am afraid I will not be changing course. We are focusing on high quality and meaningful work experience post-16. The blanket requirement to provide work experience at key stage 4 and under had fewer and fewer employers willing to accommodate young people. They were worried about health and safety, red tape introduced under the previous Government and, exactly as the hon. Gentleman says, being without the work readiness skills that this Government are focusing on to ensure our young people are ready for life in the world of work.