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Careers Guidance

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Skills – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 14th July 2005.

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Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire 10:30 am, 14th July 2005

What steps she is taking to improve the effectiveness of careers guidance and counselling.

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills, Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Children, Young People and Families)

We will set out our plans for improving information, advice and guidance for young people in the youth Green Paper, which will be published shortly.

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire

Is the Minister aware that despite the hard efforts of many careers advisers and other professionals, figures from her Department show that the number of 16-year-old males not in full-time education, employment or training has risen by a massive 68 per cent. since 1997, and that unemployment among 16 and 17-year-olds is at its highest since records began in 1992? I strongly urge the Minister to look again at the problem of youth inactivity and in so doing to utilise the skills and experience of organisations such as Fairbridge, Weston Spirit and the Prince's Trust, which have a far better track record in tackling social exclusion than her Department.

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills, Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Children, Young People and Families)

As the hon. Gentleman knows, Connexions has met its target of returning to education, employment or training young people who were out of any of those three situations. There is a problem with statistics, in that the national statistics have been derived from different sets of data, and we are examining that. I believe the hon. Gentleman was quoting the national statistics. Connexions' statistics are derived from its own direct contact with young people and represent what it has achieved, but I accept that we need to make sure that the national data and Connexions data are aligned. That is a top priority for the Government and a key target that we are actively pursuing. We want every young person to be in education, employment or training, because that is how they will improve their life chances for the future.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education)

If the youth Green Paper appears before the recess, I hope the Minister will apologise for the months of delay, which have destabilised and undermined everyone involved in careers guidance and youth work. I know that she will not want to pre-empt her plans for the careers guidance service, but can she at least tell us that those plans will have two principles at their heart: first, that they will apply to everybody, so that all our young people will get quality careers guidance, which has not been the experience under Connexions; and secondly, that they will enshrine the principle of independent careers advice, which is so important to ensure that young people get the full range of choices open to them?

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills, Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Children, Young People and Families)

I understand the expectation and anticipation in the various sectors as regards the Green Paper, but I will not apologise to the hon. Gentleman for the delay. We had a general election and it was important that we got the recommendations right. There is a great deal riding on the proposals in the Green Paper, and if not for the events of last week, it would probably have been published by now. I hope that nothing will come in the way of publication very shortly. The principles that the hon. Gentleman outlined are important to us. It is important that young people get impartial advice, that they can relate that advice to their experience in schools, that schools have some accountability for the advice, that it is as expert as possible, and that it is informed by the views and experience of employers. We have tried to bring all that into the recommendations that we will shortly produce.

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Opposition Whip (Commons)

When the Minister produces her plans later in the year, may I urge her to involve business more in careers guidance, and also to consider students with higher academic achievement? Connexions seems to have done a good job in some areas for those who are less academic, but not such a good job for those with higher academic achievement.

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills, Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Children, Young People and Families)

I agree on the point about business. We want to ensure that that is built into the system. I know that employers and the CBI feel strongly about that, as do we. Young people should get a range of advice about all the academic, vocational and careers opportunities at an early stage, so that that can inform their curriculum choices. We are trying to achieve that. On Connexions more generally, it has done well with children with additional needs. That is undisputed. There are Connexions services that provide good information and advice, although I accept that the Ofsted picture is more variable on that front. We are trying to ensure that we build on the best of Connexions in what we produce.