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Careers Advice and Guidance

Volume 779: debated on Monday 6 March 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to continue to ensure the availability of good careers advice and guidance.

My Lords, we know that careers advice still varies hugely, even though a lot of good work is under way. That is why we will publish a comprehensive careers strategy for all ages later this year. We want to build on the progress so far. The Careers & Enterprise Company has made an excellent start and is boosting the level of employer input into schools and colleges, while the National Careers Service continues to provide free, impartial support across the country and has excellent customer satisfaction rates.

My Lords, there is a great need in this country for skills, and many 16 year-olds and others are not aware of the vocational education opportunities available. I recently met members of the aerospace industry, who are combining together. Many other organisations and trades are combining to offer training and vocational opportunities. May I say to the Minister that people are not always aware of the opportunities for training and vocational education and suchlike? Will he ensure that the Government publicise the many opportunities that are available in this country for training and vocational education?

I share the noble Lord’s concern about the lack of awareness in some cases of these kinds of opportunities. Of course, we are determined to increase the status of technical education. We have been discussing this in the Technical and Further Education Bill and have accepted an amendment from my noble friend Lord Baker to require schools to allow principals of institutions offering technical education to come into the schools to meet the pupils.

My Lords, a recent report on apprenticeships from the Young Women’s Trust found that young women received lower average pay and less on the job training and were more likely than their male counterparts to be out of work after their apprenticeship. I declare an interest as a trustee of the Young Women’s Trust. Part of the problem is the occupational segregation that occurs. What are the Government doing to make sure that young women receive appropriate careers advice?

I share the noble Baroness’s concern. Our reforms to career guidance are based on schools connecting with pupils so that they understand the breadth of opportunities available to them, particularly in relation to girls. We welcome initiatives such as the Inspiring Women campaign, run by Inspiring the Future. We also have a lot of activity under way to stimulate more interest in STEM, including the Stimulating Physics Network and the Further Mathematics Support Programme. These provide support to schools, with a particular focus on engaging girls.

My Lords, I believe that something like 58% of graduates are employed in what are described as non-graduate jobs. I suggest that part of the reason for that is that there is not an efficient functioning of the guidance of young people at university into career areas that are suitable for them. Indeed, as has been commented on, a lot of people are not even aware that there is advice at university. I hope the Government will think hard about how they can improve that and help our graduates get into the sorts of jobs that they are suitable for.

My noble friend makes an extremely good point. I know that my ministerial colleague Jo Johnson is very focused on this. I remember Andreas Schleicher telling me that we are the worst country in Europe for aligning courses at universities with the jobs available. We believe that our plans under the Higher Education and Research Bill will make students much more focused on what are worthwhile occupations.

My Lords, a few moments ago the Minister referred to the Technical and Further Education Bill, which is in Committee, and that he had accepted a cross-party amendment which means that from September this year all state-funded schools in England must provide access to a range of education and training providers. That was very much welcomed by all those in Committee, but in that debate the Minister said:

“Our careers strategy will not be effective unless schools and colleges are held to account for the quality of their careers provision. Ofsted has an important role to play in this regard”.—[Official Report, 22/2/17; col. GC 70.]

With schools that were previously reluctant to have their pupils advised about routes other than those that lead to university now being obliged to do so, does the Minister accept that when this comes into effect Ofsted should give an overall “good” or “outstanding” rating to a school or college only if it considers that the careers advice provided by them is of a good or outstanding standard?

When we came into government in 2010 I think there were about 30 different Ofsted categories for ratings and we were very keen to sharpen and simplify the Ofsted arrangements. Ofsted has sharpened its approach specifically to careers provision and continues to remind inspectors of the importance of effective information, advice and guidance. Careers provision features within three of the four graded judgments: effectiveness of leadership and management; personal development; behaviour and welfare; and outcomes.

My Lords, what advice is provided for minority women who want to break out of the stereotypical jobs towards which they are normally encouraged to move and into careers that are not normally assumed to be their domain? What support do they get once they make such choices in order to enable them to continue?

I have already referred to Inspiring Women, the Stimulating Physics Network and the Further Mathematics Support Programme, which are particularly focused on encouraging women into STEM. Of course, schools should be organised to encourage their female pupils, in particular, to see a wide range of career opportunities and to support them further to make sure that they are encouraged to go on visits and trips, which, as we know, are sometimes not easy.

My Lords, we all wait for this comprehensive strategy with great anticipation. Does the Minister agree that the comprehensive strategy should ensure, first, that there are properly trained people to give face-to-face advice and secondly, that the importance of careers, jobs and enterprise are recognised at primary school level?

I agree that careers advice should start at an early age. It depends precisely how you pitch it, but certainly all schools should be identifying their children’s passions, interests and aptitudes. What the noble Lord says about face-to-face careers advice is interesting. There is clear evidence that if that is all one relies on it is a very ineffective strategy. Most studies have concluded that the best careers advice comes through activities with employers, and there is evidence that five or more employer engagements during secondary school means that students are seven times less likely to be NEET.