Careers Service (Young People)

Part of Opposition Day — [20th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 13th September 2011.

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Shadow Secretary of State (Education and Election Co-ordinator) 7:15 pm, 13th September 2011

My hon. Friend speaks with customary clarity on these issues, and tells us what life is like for the young people he represents, many of whom might be new arrivals in this country who do not understand how young people can open the doors to education, training and jobs. He has put his finger on the problem. The Government take the view that schools can do everything, and that everything can be pushed down to the schools. Some things need to be organised across the whole local authority, however, if we are to maintain quality and expertise.

I am prepared to believe that schools could provide the necessary advice, but the transition process needs to be managed so that the experts who are currently working for the local authorities can be brought into the schools to provide the advice from those schools. Instead, this lot are allowing those people to be let go and made redundant, even though they have many years experience in the careers service. They are being lost to the profession, and in a few months’ time the schools will be expected to subscribe to a phone or web-based service.

Government Members might think that this is funny, but I do not. We are talking about young people’s life chances, and those young people deserve better than what the Government are giving them. We owe them more, because the world that they are facing is far harsher than the one that we lived in 30 or so years ago. Young people today can expect to have at least 10 different jobs throughout their careers—probably more. Unlike their grandparents, who did specific jobs in large industries, they will be most likely to work in smaller companies. They will need to be all-rounders, able to adapt quickly to new situations. It is also more likely that they will be employers as well as employees.

The harsh truth is that it is getting harder for everyone to get on, but the odds are being stacked much more heavily against those who have the least. If we do not act, this century will see us return to a world in which the postcode of the bed that people are born in will pretty much determine where they end up in life. In today’s world, as traditional structures break down, social networks and connections are becoming the key to jobs and opportunities. In some industries—sadly, we can count Parliament among them—it has become almost expected that a young person will have to work for free before they can get their first foot on the ladder. That is wrong; it is the exploitation of young people’s determination to get on.

If we allow the situation to continue in which there is no careers advice and in which the only way in is through having a connection with a company or organisation and moving to London to work for free, we will limit the job opportunities in the most sought-after careers in the country to less than 1% or 2% of the population. That is not a situation that I am prepared to accept. Parliament needs to step in and level up that playing field, to ensure a fair distribution of life chances around the country. We need to help those young people who have the least.

A statutory careers service is important because not all young people get the same support and advice at home. Dame Ruth Silver, chair of the Careers Profession Task Force, says of the Government’s approach:

“It will further deepen deprivation, because some people come from families who have never worked; the ones who need it most are those who don’t have successful adults in their lives.”