Careers Education for Students - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:33 pm on 6th September 2018.

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Photo of Viscount Younger of Leckie Viscount Younger of Leckie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 5:33 pm, 6th September 2018

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for securing this important debate. I declare an interest. I spent much of my career working in human resources in industry and the City of London and have worked as an executive search consultant and as a recruitment adviser.

There is little more important than young people being given the right careers advice. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, described it much more eloquently: it helps them to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, to build confidence in themselves and to understand that there is a world of work waiting for them that offers many great opportunities. We must inspire young people and help them understand the arts and science pathways which offer equally fantastic careers that will allow them to spread their wings beyond their home area, as my noble friend Lord Cormack mentioned.

That is why we are so lucky to have with us for this debate the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, who gave such an excellent maiden speech. Like the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, I have been fortunate to have attended several performances at the Royal Opera House when the noble Baroness held starring roles as a ballerina. If that background were not enough as a shining inspiration for people to take up careers in the performing arts, she continues to lead and influence the cultural sector in higher education and in the wider community. Today, she has highlighted the importance of creativity and I am certain that the House will benefit much from her wisdom, experience, knowledge, energy and perhaps, as she alluded to, actions rather than thoughts in the future.

The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, explained the importance of language skills in an increasingly global labour market. I can confirm that we announced the names of the schools that will lead the modern foreign language hubs on 3 August and will announce further details this autumn about how we will monitor their work. We are also conducting a range of pilot initiatives that will inform the policy development and final design of the National Retraining Scheme. As we move into a post-Brexit economy, languages will become ever-more important in ensuring that we can compete in the global marketplace.

The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, asked for an update on ensuring that the UK remains a full member of Erasmus+. The UK is open to exploring participation in the successor scheme and we are considering carefully the Commission’s proposal for the next Erasmus programme. We will continue to participate in discussions while we remain in the EU. The decision on future UK participation in Erasmus will be decided as part of the future partnership negotiations.

Whether in the arts, sciences, modern foreign languages or another area of interest, we want everyone to understand that there are different routes into work and how to plan their steps to get there. We recognise that people may experience several careers in their lifetime, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, mentioned, and that learning is a lifelong experience. The House will know that we have had two recent debates on this subject.

Let us look first at our successes in taking action to improve the careers system. In 2012, we gave schools a duty to provide independent careers guidance for all 12 to 18 year-olds, and I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking, who was here earlier but is no longer in his place, who more recently proposed new legislation that requires schools to allow technical education and apprenticeship providers to talk to pupils about what they can offer. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely mentioned the lack of awareness of apprenticeships. Perhaps I can reassure him a little: there is work to do on this, but the Apprenticeship Support and Knowledge for Schools programme went into over 3,000 schools in 2016 to inform and inspire young people.

Also in 2012, we established the National Careers Service. The service offers face-to-face support for adults, particularly if they want to develop new skills or retrain. Careers information is also available through a website and helpline for people of all ages. In 2014, Ofsted published a report that identified employer engagement as the weakest aspect of careers provision. In response, the Government established the Careers & Enterprise Company, much mentioned in today’s debate, to work with schools and colleges to build relationships with local businesses and employers. I am pleased that there is general support for the CEC, particularly from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and from my noble friend Lord Nash. I am pleased that he is with us today.

The noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, raised several points about the role and purpose of the CEC. I could give her quite a long answer, but the short answer is that the CEC’s priority is to build infrastructure and develop relationships on the ground through its enterprise adviser network and funded activities. The focus is on tailoring the offer locally with resources focused on the areas of greatest need—so-called cold spots, which again have been mentioned today. The company set up a new enterprise adviser network. Senior business volunteers help schools and colleges to build relationships with more employers, drawing on their business experience and contacts. The noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Watson, spoke about the lack of reference to SMEs. I can give some reassurance that 42% of enterprise advisers are in fact from small businesses.

The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, asked what progress the CEC has made with the enterprise adviser network in schools and what impact it is having. I can tell noble Lords that that the network is supporting over 46% of schools and colleges in England and will support all of them by the end of 2020. An independent evaluation last year found that each school and college in the network is working with three new employers on average. They range from multinational firms to local small business owners. For example, Dale Power Solutions in Scarborough, apprenticeship employer of the year, is one of hundreds of employers supporting local students to increase their employability skills. This can include mentoring and help with online applications—which I know are challenging for young people—CVs and interviews.

The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, also asked whether the company trials and identifies what works in careers advice for pupils from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. As the House knows, social mobility is an important cornerstone. The company has developed a model to help us to understand which parts of the country are most in need of support with careers activity provision—now known as cold spots, as I said. I assure my noble friend Lady Bottomley that this funding extends to areas such as Hull, Humber and the Isle of Wight, where the company is funding a number of excellent organisations to support disadvantaged young people, including the Prince’s Trust, Young Enterprise and EngineeringUK. This approach is helping the Careers & Enterprise Company to focus limited resources on areas of greatest need. All programmes are evaluated to improve our understanding of which interventions are most effective.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned the need to raise awareness of careers strategy and what is available through the CEC. I agree that this is important. The CEC has run a series of roadshows for schools and has an annual conference, which I did not mention to the right reverend Prelate earlier. The company has awarded £13.7 million through two rounds of an investment fund, which has delivered over 24,000 career-related activities across the country that are having a clear benefit on the work-readiness of young people.

We have laid the foundations for an effective careers system but we recognise that there is more to do. It is good that experienced people such as the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, keep holding the Government’s feet to the fire on this subject. In 2016, the ASPIRES study found that fewer than two-thirds of students in year 11 said that they received careers education. Of those who did, just over half were satisfied with the careers education they received. Clearly more needs to be done, which is why the Government published a careers strategy in December 2017.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bull, asked about the impact of future skills on careers guidance. Our careers strategy is a long-term plan. It is vital that individuals have access to high-quality labour market information on new and emerging industries to help them make informed choices. It has been mentioned that the choice of jobs will change substantially in the coming years.

The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, rightly identifies softer skills such as communication, resilience and empathy as essential for careers. Employer mentoring is an effective way of developing these skills. The CEC supported the “Make the Grade” programme to deliver employer mentoring to over 7,700 participants, 88% of whom reported that this increased their confidence and motivation. Jobcentre Plus advisers work with schools to offer young people an insight into the softer skills needed for the world of work and advice on traineeships and apprenticeships.

As mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, the careers strategy has been developed in partnership with Gatsby, a charitable foundation set up by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury. It has developed eight Gatsby benchmarks, which define an ambitious framework for careers guidance that works for schools, employers and, most importantly, young people and their families.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, made the point that we must not forget those with special educational needs and disabilities. We welcome the fantastic work of Chickenshed, and the Government agree that we must make sure that those with special educational needs get the support that they need. The careers strategy announced a £1.7 million fund to test new careers approaches in this area.

The careers strategy asks all schools and colleges to adopt the benchmarks and meet them by the end of 2020. Gatsby funded a pilot with 16 schools and colleges in the north-east of England to look at the impact of putting the benchmarks into practice. At the start of the pilot in 2015, no school or college achieved more than three of the benchmarks. After two years, 87.5% of the schools and colleges were reaching six to eight of the benchmarks. The north-east pilot set a model for local delivery of the Gatsby benchmarks and showed what progress can be made with good leadership and a clear sense of purpose.

Our careers strategy will spread that good practice across the country, with an expanded role for the CEC. The company is setting up 20 new careers hubs. Up to 40 schools and colleges will build networks with universities, training providers, employers and careers professionals to improve careers guidance in the regions. A hub lead will co-ordinate activity. To answer the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, we believe that this is enough at the moment, but we will certainly be keeping our eye on the numbers. Hubs will receive a share of £1.25 million to spend on careers and employability activities.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, asked about funding for schools not being in the careers hubs, but there are other funding streams available, including through opportunity areas and local enterprise partnerships. Many careers organisations are also offering free resources that schools can access.

In addition, the north-east pilot found that every school and college needs a careers leader who is responsible and accountable for the delivery of the careers programme. That is why we have also asked the CEC to work with providers to develop training for careers leaders. The Government’s careers strategy made £4 million available for at least 500 places, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said. He asked, though, with only 500 careers leaders’ bursaries, how extra demand might be met, if needed. An online careers leader training package will be made available, which I hope provides some reassurance.

My noble friend Lord Nash highlighted the research from the Education and Employers task force. We expect secondary schools and colleges to provide every young person with at least one employer encounter per year and a further, first-hand experience of the workplace before the age of 16, in line with the requirements in the Gatsby benchmarks.

I can reassure the noble Baronesses, Lady Bull and Lady McIntosh, and my noble friend Lord Gilbert that we expect young people to meet employers from the creative industries. The Careers & Enterprise Company has enterprise advisers from employers including Galleries for Justice, Rising Arts Agency and Shakespeare’s Globe. Our commitment to cultural and creative industries can also be seen in our significant investment, spending almost £500 million between 2016 and 2020 to support a range of music and arts education programmes. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, in particular, will say that we have more to do; it is certainly something that we will keep an eye on.

The Gatsby benchmarks include an expectation that every young person should have a personal guidance interview by the age of 16. This can help them to make significant study and career choices, or offer vital support for job applications and interviews. The work of the Career Development Institute, the single UK-wide professional body for the careers sector, is raising the status and profile of the careers profession—an important point to make. It produces excellent resources to help schools and colleges, including a commissioning guide and a UK register of careers professionals.

We recognise that parents can influence the career choices that their children make—something I do not believe was raised in today’s debate. It is a work in progress, but we want to bring all government careers information into one place—a one-stop shop, if you will. That will help parents with older children to research the different ways to pursue a particular career.

The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, and the noble Lord, Lord Storey, spoke about primary schools and careers. They will know—I think I have mentioned it before in the House—that Australia is looking at starting careers advice or guidance at the age of eight. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, spoke about Primary Futures. Australia may be right: this is obviously not formal careers guidance, but I think we should look at what they are trying to do. It is important that, in line with parents, primary schools work closely to decide what is best, what is right and appropriate at that stage. I agree with the concept that we should start careers education at primary school. We want children at that stage to be encouraged to think about the world of work and to understand the link between learning and their futures.

The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, asked about the role of Primary Futures. We are working with the charity Education and Employers task force, which helps to run Primary Futures, to test and evaluate new approaches to understand what careers activities work well in primary schools. The noble Lord, Lord Storey, asked about careers guidance at primary schools. The Government, to go further on this point, are investing £2 million over two years to support our agenda on primary careers provision.

Much was said in this afternoon’s debate about monitoring progress: it was raised, in particular, by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and by others. We will be monitoring the progress that schools and colleges make in meeting the Gatsby benchmarks and improving their careers programmes. The CEC will publish an annual report on how well, or not so well, thousands of schools across the country are doing against every benchmark. Ofsted will continue to assess the quality of careers guidance when inspecting schools and colleges, and we now include data in school performance tables on the destinations of young people after leaving education or training. Outcomes are important, and this data shows how well schools are preparing young people for adult life. Noble Lords will know now much importance I put on outcomes at university level, but we think it is just as important at school level.

We believe that the careers strategy is bold and ambitious, and I hope that in this respect we are at least “sustaining hope”, in the words of my noble friend Lord Cormack. It is good to have broad support from a number of Peers on this. My noble friend Lady Bottomley, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, were sufficiently supportive to say that they think we are going in the right direction. I am, however, the first to say that there is more to do. We are already seeing signs of progress: in June, Ofsted highlighted improvements in careers provision in schools. We must build on this. As the noble Lord, Lord Storey, said, we must give every young person the inspiration to find the career that is right for them, and advice to help them plan their route there. We must equip every young person with the skills to perform well in an interview and the attributes they need to succeed in the workplace.

The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, raised a couple of points on the Economic Affairs Committee report. I realise that he is on that committee. I can reassure him, without giving a direct answer to those points, that we will have a debate on the report and the Government’s response, though I cannot provide a date.

In conclusion, if we can transform the careers support that we offer to young people in this country, we can help them achieve the futures they deserve. Our economy will benefit and we will truly become a country of opportunity for everyone—something we all so want to happen.