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Careers Education

Volume 773: debated on Wednesday 15 June 2016


Asked by

My Lords, later this year the Department for Education will publish the Government’s strategy for improved careers education and guidance for young people. This will set out a clear vision of the progress that we want to achieve by 2020. We are investing £90 million into careers policy over this Parliament. This includes £20 million to increase the number of mentors from the world of work, supporting young people who are at risk of underachieving.

I am delighted to hear that the Government are producing this strategy. Would the noble Baroness not agree that careers education is hugely important to young people, particularly those from low-income backgrounds and from certain ethnic groups, who may not have the informal social networks that provide the equivalent advice and opportunity? She must also be concerned that the last Ofsted inspection found that only one in five schools was offering effective careers education.

Of course I am concerned if careers advice is not properly provided to students in all schools. It is vital that people have access to good careers advice and that through careers advice they can see clear opportunities for them when they leave school that go beyond just the academic route. That is why the Government have invested £90 million into careers policy this Parliament and will continue to place great emphasis and importance on careers guidance.

As the chair of the Social Mobility Committee of your Lordships’ House, I would like to tell the Minister that we found that careers advice and education in this country is in a parlous state. The committee recommended that there should be: independent careers advice and guidance, supported by a robust evidence base and drawing on existing expertise, which should not involve schools and colleges; independent face-to-face careers advice which provides good-quality, informed advice on more than just academic routes; a single access point; and, finally, improved career education in schools.

The committee that the noble Baroness chaired on social mobility was incredibly important. It covered a topic close to my heart and to that of all noble Lords in this House in ensuring that people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and have great awareness and understanding of the various routes available to them in achieving their potential. That is why we as a Government are doing so much to try to improve the careers guidance, not just in schools but, as the noble Baroness says, to strengthen the dialogue and connection between schools and local employment and businesses in school areas.

Could my noble friend tell the House what role she sees for employers in inspiring young people in careers? I declare an interest as an employer.

Employers should play a big part in inspiring young people and see that as an important part of their responsibility. That is why we have invested so much in creating opportunities for apprenticeships and how we want to see employers playing their part not just in providing those apprenticeships but in making sure that, in schools, students and pupils understand what is needed for them to be successful in the world of work.

My Lords, I meet a lot of apprentices, hardly any of whom appear to have been directed towards their apprenticeship by their schools or careers adviser. How will the government strategy ensure that students, teachers and parents are more aware of vocational career opportunities, such as apprenticeships?

I hope very much that this is part of the responsibility of the Careers & Enterprise Company—and I am sure that it is—which we funded to inspire young people and help them to prepare for the world of work. But I accept and understand the point that the noble Lord makes about ensuring that families and young people understand the range of opportunities open to them. In my maiden speech in your Lordships’ House, I talked about how it is important and vital that people understand that there are a range of routes to success, and it is not just about going through to university—as important as that is, and as important as it is that we make that available to as wide a group of people as we can. For me personally, this is a mission that I feel very strongly about.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of House and hope she will assume this role at some time in the future, given the clarity of the answers that we have had from her thus far. The Social Mobility Committee of your Lordships’ House said in April that the quality of vocational education in schools is sadly lacking and that not enough emphasis is placed on that. Its report made a recommendation to the effect that a new 14 to 19 transition stage should be established to delineate clearly between technical and academic lines. I understand that the noble Baroness will not be familiar with this but, when she has time, will she speak to the noble Lord, Lord Nash, and ask him whether he intends to accept that recommendation to demonstrate clearly to schoolchildren that post-school life involves much more than university?

On the noble Lord’s first point about vocational education, when the coalition Government in the previous Parliament were first elected we took significant steps to improve the quality of vocational education. It is something that we continue to give priority to, because it is important that vocational education has great status for it to be of value to people when they are in the world of work. I point out to the noble Lord that one of the new measures that have been introduced in the school regime in recent years is UTCs, which were championed by my noble friend Lord Baker as well as by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. I feel strongly that all young people who are ambitious and want to get on should be clear in their teens that there are more routes to success than just through university. I hope very much that they feel very inspired to succeed through other routes because there are many people who have been able to go through a vocational route and have made it to places which they might not have thought they were able to get to when they started off in life.