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Employment: Young People

Volume 804: debated on Monday 20 July 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the young people due to leave school in the current academic year are prepared for work in a post-COVID-19 environment; and what changes they have made to careers support and guidance provision to achieve this.

My Lords, we are investing around £100 million this year in careers guidance for young people and adults. We are supporting schools during the Covid-19 pandemic to develop virtual careers activities for students, including the successful My Week of Work event. The National Careers Service offers impartial careers guidance and advice through a website, web chat and helpline, and it will operate an exam results helpline this summer. We will keep this support under review and assess its impact.

My Lords, 800,000 young people are currently leaving education and hoping to join an already overcrowded jobs market. Good careers advice, including personal guidance from qualified professionals, will be essential to ensure all that talent does not go to waste. How will the current careers strategy be renewed and expanded to meet this need, and will the Government introduce a careers guidance guarantee, complementary to the opportunity guarantee, to ensure that all young people can access professional, personal careers guidance to help them identify and pursue suitable careers pathways?

My Lords, during the pandemic, the Careers & Enterprise Company, alongside teachers, has had to review its delivery strategy. Much of its training and support has therefore been delivered virtually, so we have seen virtual mock interviews and virtual CV preparation sessions. Of course, the expectation on schools is that they deliver a personal interview to students at 16 and 18, and we have advised that that should take place virtually rather than by telephone. More than 70% of schools are delivering that interview at age 16 to the majority of their students.

My Lords, the Social Mobility Commission recently published an apprenticeships report, which highlighted a 36% reduction in the number of apprenticeship starters who were from disadvantaged backgrounds. As we prioritise developing the skills of young people, can the Minister confirm how the new £1.6 billion funding for scaling up training and apprenticeships will be distributed across the country to ensure that areas such as the north-east with a high proportion of disadvantaged students have access to quality training?

My Lords, in relation to traineeships and apprenticeships, this is the first time that the Government will be funding employers who provide trainees with work experience, at the rate of £1,000 per new trainee, up to 10 per employer. Additional funds are available for apprenticeships of £2,000 for every apprentice under the age of 25, in addition to the original £1,000 for 16 to 18 year-olds’ apprenticeships. We are encouraging all employers, including employers in the north-east, to take advantage of those schemes and provide the work opportunities that young people need.

My Lords, when I come across organisations which believe that they can help with the Government’s efforts to provide careers support and guidance to those affected by Covid, whether they be young people or older people who have lost their jobs, what email address or other contact information should I provide them with so that they get a one-stop-shop access to all that the Government are doing?

My Lords, it is wonderful when employers and other people want to offer their support to the Government. In relation to careers advice, the National Careers Service is the Government’s overarching source of careers information and support, so that would be the first stop. Unfortunately, it is not a one-stop shop. The second stop would be the Careers & Enterprise Company. As my noble friend is probably aware, one of the three prongs of its approach is an enterprise adviser network, and more than 2,000 businesses and other employers are involved in providing that support in schools, so I would also direct those volunteers to that institution so they can assist schools at this time.

My Lords, we know that having foreign language skills makes school leavers more employable. Post Covid and post Brexit, this will be more so, and there is high demand in finance, telecoms, transport and tourism. Will the Minister include languages as a skills shortage in the national retraining scheme for technical education? Will she also promote effective liaison between the careers hubs and MFL hubs, to show exactly how language skills expand career opportunities and life choices?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is correct about the importance of language skills, and that is why modern foreign languages have been included in the Ebacc. Yes, we encourage all our hubs in this area to work together: the careers hubs, modern foreign languages hubs and English hubs that we have across the country. The national retraining scheme is currently focused on those over the age of 24 who need to increase their skills to increase their income. That is led by a number of LEPs, and I am sure that they would welcome the introduction of modern foreign languages to that work.

My Lords, all the initiatives introduced that the Minister has referred to have to be accessed digitally, but over these last few weeks we have learned that we have digital poverty. Many young people do not have access to a computer, and they fall in the group that most needs support and guidance. What will the Government do to help them? Please do not tell me that it has been solved by the Government’s computer initiative, because we know that is not the case.

My Lords, obviously, digital has become important, but the guidance issued to schools for September talks about their having remote learning from the end of September, so that includes the traditional way of delivering by way of printed packs, which I know many schools have been doing. Although we have been encouraging the use of virtual one-on-one interviews at age 16 over the telephone, of course schools have been encouraged to have some form of one-on-one physical contact with students before the summer holidays.

My Lords, all schools will be returning to full operation in September. How will access to impartial personal careers guidance be funded and promoted in schools, including primary schools, making the best use of careers guidance providers with the skills and resources to help young people make informed choices?

My Lords, the noble Lord makes the important point that it is good to get involved early, so £2 million is being spent on primary school careers guidance and education. There is a specific pilot project involving 70 primary schools up in the north-east, working with Ernst & Young to see how the Gatsby benchmarking can be adapted for primary schools. As I have outlined, the expectation is that all schools will provide a personal interview with 16 and 18 year-olds before they enter the job market, and there is the local government guarantee for 16 and 17 year-olds of a place in education or suitable training, which will be particularly important this September.

I declare my interest as chairman of the Baker Dearing trust, which promotes university technical colleges. Is the Minister aware that on Friday of next week, about 300,000 18 year-olds will leave their colleges and schools for the last time and will be joined by tens of thousands of 16 year-olds? Our job as a Government and as a Parliament is to ensure that as few as possible of those join the ranks of the unemployed. The Government have a very good and potentially successful scheme to allow those students to apply for an extra year’s training to get a technical qualification, which will give them a chance of a better job next year. However, it is a great secret. It is not talked about generally or being promoted actively, except in the educational press, but 16 and 18 year-olds do not read the educational press. Can the Minister therefore ensure that by Friday of next week, every 16 and 18 year-old in the country will get clear information about the scheme, what it consists of and how they can apply?

My Lords, the Government are using digital and traditional ways to promote the opportunities out there for young people. Many of the opportunities outlined in the skills recovery package are being promoted through jobcentres, and there is a £100 million fund for 18 and 19 year-old school and college leavers to study a high-value level 2 or level 3 if an employment apprenticeship or training opportunity is not available to them.

My Lords, the Resolution Foundation recently pointed out that the corona class of 2020, as it referred to it, could face years of reduced pay and limited job prospects, long after the current economic storm has passed, unless additional support is provided—and fast. Since March, entire year groups have missed out on university visits, work experience opportunities and, despite what the Minister said, much advice from careers leaders in schools. In preparation for a full return of pupils in September, school staff must have the funding and resources that they need to deliver that one-to-one support that enables young people to take advantage of the opportunities available to them after GCSEs. What additional support will the Government provide to schools to enable that to happen?

My Lords, the Government recently announced a £1 billion catch-up package, £650 million of which will go directly to schools. The formula for that funding was announced today. The noble Lord will also be aware of the £350 million for the national tutoring programme. It is of course essential that there are skilled professionals in schools. One of the three prongs of the Careers & Enterprise Company strategy is to train up career leaders—1,300 training bursaries have been given, with a further 650 bursaries, as we recognise that this is a particular area of expertise. We expect that some of the £32 million that was announced for the National Careers Service will also go on training and upskilling careers advisers.

Sitting suspended.