We are hugely strengthening technical and provider access in schools. We have legislated for pupils to have six encounters with apprentice organisations and technical colleges. Ofsted is looking closely at careers guidance, and the apprentice support and knowledge network is going into over 2,000 schools, supporting 680,000 pupils and encouraging them to take up apprenticeships or other skills offerings.
Colleges in Southport have raised concerns about careers advice opportunities for students with SEND—specifically, about the suitability of the oversight and the supposed added value of these sessions. Will my right hon. Friend detail what steps the Government are taking to ensure that these sessions are personalised better to support SEND students in their transition into employment?
My hon. Friend is a champion for special needs pupils, and he is absolutely right. We need to ensure that special needs pupils have employment opportunities, along with everybody else. We are investing over £18 million over the next three years in supported internship schemes for high special needs 16-to-19 pupils. We have a mentor scheme for disabled apprentices, the Careers & Enterprise Company has put in SEND support to ensure high-quality careers guidance and training, and 82% of SEND schools are now part of careers hubs.
As supportive as I am of this scheme, I do not think that up to six sessions really cuts it. Will the Minister consider a scheme similar to Aimhigher, which was introduced by the previous Labour Government to encourage young people into higher education and down the vocational route? This would give young people mentors who have been through apprenticeship schemes and really get them hooked on the opportunities that vocational education can bring.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s question. My first speech in the House of Commons was about that very subject. The six encounters that I mentioned are the minimum. Obviously, many schools do more. Only last week, I attended Oasis school in Bristol, and watched students being encouraged to take up apprenticeships and to hold an apprenticeship careers fair. We are doing huge amounts. I mentioned the apprenticeship skills and knowledge network, which is going around schools and encouraging pupils to take up apprenticeships. That involves more than 2,000 schools and 680,000 pupils. We need to do as much as possible to educate students about apprenticeships and to ensure that they have the encounters that he rightly talks about.