[Mr Joe Benton in the Chair] — Careers Guidance

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:01 pm on 16th May 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Opposition Whip (Commons) 2:01 pm, 16th May 2013

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Benton, and to follow Craig Whittaker, who talks of his steel roots. I represent a steel town, so I hope that a thread of steel runs through this debate, which started so well with the Chair of the Select Committee elegantly setting out his stall. He explained why the Committee described the transfer as having been handled “regrettably” and the fact that the resources were not passed to schools along with the responsibility. I was pleased too to hear my hon. Friend Pat Glass express disappointment at the Government’s defensive reaction to the report.

The Minister does not have to be defensive. He has the opportunity today to respond to the concerns that are expressed and stride forward rather than glance backwards. Knowing the Minister as I do, I am sure that that is what he will do at the end of the debate.

The hon. Member for Calder Valley explained very well the need for careers guidance to be seen not only in a national context but in a local one, too, and to be matched to the needs of the local region and local area. For the past year, I have been privileged to serve as chair of the Humber Skills Commission, on behalf of the Humber local enterprise partnership, which has people from large and small businesses from across the region represented on its board.

When I took both written and oral evidence from businesses across the Humber, I heard what they were saying about the challenges in skills that face them. To my surprise, career education and guidance came out as a strong concern; indeed, it is one of the prime areas in our report, which we are finalising at the moment.

Let me pause to pick out the points that the commission highlighted. Interestingly, those points, which come from a regional perspective, accord with what the Select Committee has found nationally. First, it was noted that information, advice and guidance is frequently not impartial or focused enough. Secondly, many young people do not know about the roles that are available; they are just not aware of the jobs and roles that are available either locally or nationally. As the Chair of the Select Committee said, there is a mismatch between what they might be interested in and what jobs are there. Thirdly, it was said that we need more employers involved in mentoring and coaching, but we need an infrastructure to make that happen. If the money has been taken away and the responsibility transferred, how does that happen?

Fourthly, the commission noted that labour market information in insufficient and restricted—a key point made by the Chair of the Select Committee at the start of the debate. Career opportunities need to be sold to young people, so a process is needed by which their eyes are opened. The hon. Member for Calder Valley talked about inspirational teachers, but we could have inspirational careers advisers, too.

The commission also said that parents need to understand the opportunities that are available for their children. It is important that they have access to advice and guidance as well. There is a lack of information with regard to opportunities in the offshore wind industry and the supply chain. Given that there is a big opportunity in such an industry, it was quite a stark moment to realise how little was known about it within the educational system, which needs to be preparing people for the jobs of today and tomorrow and not the jobs of yesterday.