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Careers Advice in Schools for 12-16 Year Olds

Volume 551: debated on Tuesday 23 October 2012

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require schools, together with local businesses and other sectors, to provide a comprehensive careers advice service to 12 to 16 year olds; and for connected purposes.

Over the past few years, I have discussed with businesses in Burnley future career paths for young people starting work with them. We have a serious skills gap in this country. I have looked at four major industries—the aerospace industry, the automotive industry, the green industries and the oil and gas industry, along with the chemical industry—which have advised me that they and their supply chains face a serious skills gap, not only now, but in the future. I have looked into this issue with regard to the careers advice given in schools.

There is a serious lack of careers advice given to 12 to 16-year-olds in most secondary schools. Up to now, there has been no comprehensive package to ensure every student is taught about the local employment and training opportunities from an early age so that they can see how their school studies directly correspond to the needs of local employers. Most careers advice is delivered by teachers with little or no experience outside teaching. They do it voluntarily and with some vigour, but they do not really understand the businesses in their local areas.

Careers advice is not given enough importance in schools, and there are few if any links with local employers. Local professionals do not visit schools, and time is limited for visits by students to local businesses. Careers advice is given too late to students, when they are about to leave school, but it should be given to young people from the age of 12 onwards. They do not need to make a decision then, but they need to know what careers will be available when they leave school. I am presently doing an Industry and Parliament Trust course with Total Oil, which has told me that it has more than 1,000 vacancies in the UK. I have been round lots of schools in Burnley and mentioned this to the young people, and not one has ever been advised about careers in the oil industry and, in particular, with Total.

Employers are also unsure what skills the future work force will have. They receive applications from students who clearly do not understand the industry in which they are applying to work. Students are unaware of the skills that they will need to carry out jobs in specific industries. They do not know what careers are available in other areas and have information given to them by teachers who have only the skills of the teaching profession. This has led to high youth unemployment, when there are many vacancies in industry.

I accept that the Government are doing a vast amount of work on encouraging young people to go into apprenticeships, and I support that wholeheartedly. In time, that will probably help to resolve some of these problems. But at the moment the careers advice being given in schools is not pointing young people to the careers available when they leave school.

I have a local company in my constituency called Aircelle. It is the biggest local employer, with more than 1,000 employees and a turnover of £100 million. It makes high-tech thrust reversers for the Rolls-Royce jet engines. Over the next two years, it has to increase its turnover to £250 million, but it is being held back by a lack of skilled people. It is suffering from a skills shortage, as is its supply chain. The company held an Aircelle inspiration day and invited 600 young people from various schools in Burnley to go and see how a jet engine thrust reverser is manufactured. Before they went, not one child understood where they were going, but when they left every one of them was amazed by what an engineering career involved. I hope that a lot of those young people will be inspired by that.

I would like each school to have a dedicated member of staff who is qualified and experienced in providing careers advice. I accept that not every school could fund a full-time careers post, but there is no reason why four or five schools could not get together and employ a qualified careers adviser. I do not doubt that budgets are tight, but schools now have extra budgets and the pupil premium, which they can invest in this advice. That is extremely important for young people leaving school and starting a career.

Vocational courses and apprenticeships should be pushed more. Careers advisers should be able to explain what apprenticeships are available. As I have said, there is the oil industry, the chemical industry, the aerospace industry, the automotive industry and so on. These are the businesses of the future and the businesses that this country does well in, but they are also the businesses that are being held back in this country by a lack of skills, not only in the capital companies, such as Rolls-Royce and Total, but in the supply chains that work for these companies and deliver the product. At the moment, we import more products in order to keep these businesses going than those businesses export in finished products. So we need to cut those imports, and we can do that if we have the people to do the jobs.

I would like Ofsted reports to take into account the work that schools are doing on careers advice. A lady in Burnley, Lesley Burrows, has started a company called Positive Footprints and set up a virtual and a visual jobcentre in a secondary school. The young people, when entering the school, have to go through this jobcentre. All over the walls of the entrance, she shows what jobs and careers are available. On the walls are shown actual jobs, and she stands there at her own expense, because the local county council will not fund her, which is absolutely ridiculous given what it would cost. She stands there, and if a particular student, whether 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16, wishes to find out more about careers, they can go to her and say, “I’ve seen a job on that wall. What is this industry? Please tell me, because I might like to do it. I might want to take GCSEs that make that possible.” I recommend that the Minister look into what this lady is doing.

I am delighted to put the Bill before the House. I hope it has the House’s full support and that we can create a school curriculum that includes a careers advice service—perhaps linking schools together and delivering it in partnership—that delivers the young people we need into the industries that we need. I do not want young people leaving school thinking, “Goodness me. I wish I’d done that, but I never knew about it.” That is the most important thing. Young people need to know what is available, rather than being told what might be available the day they walk out the school gates to find a job.

Question put and agreed to.


That Gordon Birtwistle, John Man, Jake Berry, Jason McCartney, Ian Swales, Stephen Lloyd and Ms Gisela Stuart present the Bill

Gordon Birtwistle accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 30 November 2012, and to be printed (Bill 79).