Careers Guidance in Schools — [Christina Rees in the Chair]

– in Westminster Hall at 11:28 am on 13 July 2022.

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[Christina Rees in the Chair]

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Labour, Weaver Vale 2:30, 13 July 2022

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the provision of careers guidance in schools.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Ms Rees, and I welcome the new Minister to her place.

In 1985, I left school. I was living in a mining community at the time, right at the end of the miners strike. At the end of my school year, a careers officer told me—I stress, told me—that I should either go down the mines, go down the pit, or join the Army, one of the two. It was not so much advice as an instruction; those were the only two options open to me, according to the careers officer. I was not that politically switched on at the time, but I was definitely aware, at the end of a year-long strike, that the pits were not exactly the industry of the future, so I did not do as I was told.

Instead, I went on to become the first in my family to get a degree. Later, I became a careers adviser myself. Eventually, I became a manager of career services, as well as an assessor for those becoming and training to be professional careers advisers. It was a vocational choice grounded in that experience of receiving poor careers advice and being told that my options were limited. I did not—I still do not—want anyone trying to decide on a career or a change in career to have the experience that I had.

I am pleased to say that things have progressed since my school days. Barriers to good-quality careers provision remain in place and the quality of careers advice varies hugely from school to school. When good careers advice is not provided, that often hits the pupils from poorer backgrounds the hardest. It costs individuals and, as a nation, it certainly costs us our economic wellbeing.

“Levelling up” is a term whose future is unclear all of a sudden, but some young people are still not getting the impartial information that they need about the opportunities open to them. The Social Market Foundation, in its recent report on careers advice, argues that levelling up careers provision would make the country fairer. As parliamentarians, we all desire the country to be a fairer place. Careers advice was named as part of the northern powerhouse strategy, but it has not been named as part of the levelling-up agenda. When the Minister responds, will he say whether careers guidance should form part of any upskilling strategy for left-behind places?

Between the Skills and Post-16 Education Act 2022, the Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Act 2022, which will shortly come into force, and the new statutory guidance, there has been much greater effort to ensure that careers advice is open to all pupils throughout secondary school. As someone who worked in the field, I welcome the extension of careers advice from year 7 to the age of 18 or, for those with additional need, to 25. However, may I ask the Minister whether there are plans to ensure that all schools are subject to the statutory guidance, rather than just maintained schools, some academies and some free schools? If we are serious about all pupils being given first-class careers guidance, we must ensure that all schools are governed by the statutory guidance.

Additionally, does the Department have plans to introduce a new careers strategy, given that the previous strategy lapsed in 2020? Given the legislation that has been implemented since then and the huge challenges to schools brought about by covid, it is clear that we need an up-to-date strategy to respond to the challenges that we face now, that pupils face now.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education)

I am greatly enjoying my hon. Friend’s contribution and he brings his experience to bear. He made a point about the statutory guidance and to whom it refers. Does he agree with me that, although the guidance is in statute, evidence shows that at least 25% of schools are failing to achieve the minimum standards of careers guidance, and that guidance is only one part of it? The other part concerns enforcement and assessment regimes, to ensure that the good intentions that the Government put forward are delivered on the ground.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Labour, Weaver Vale

I agree with my hon. Friend the shadow Minister. Resources will have to follow statutory guidance. The pandemic has had a significant impact on schools’ ability to deliver careers advice. According to recent research by the Sutton Trust, 75% of teachers in state schools said it had a negative impact, far more than the proportion of similar results returned from private schools.

There is an increasing concern that we have arrived out of the pandemic to a different world, one that students are not being prepared for. With the jobs market evolving faster than ever, Teach First has found that nearly 80% of teachers believe their students to be less ready for the world of work than in previous years. Again, more disadvantaged students will be disproportionately impacted by that, with more than half of teachers saying that they feel the pandemic has impacted disadvantaged students’ perceptions of their potential careers.

Well informed and realistic careers decisions cannot be made if careers provision is socially patterned, as evidenced by the Social Market Foundation. Essentially, pupils from schools in affluent areas opt for university while those in less affluent areas take vocational options. That needs levelling up.

The Baker clause strengthened the legislative framework, stating that schools must allow colleges and training providers access to help pupils make informed choices. If careers provision is resourced to the tune of £2 per student—less than a cup of coffee—quality will be found wanting, as argued by Careers England. Ensuring that schools, teachers and employers feel supported to meet the needs of students will be vital for improving the quality of guidance given. With only 17% of year 13 telling the Sutton Trust that they have learned about careers opportunities in their local area, there is considerably more to do to connect businesses and schools.

Although the Careers and Enterprise Company has done some excellent work connecting schools and businesses in some areas, including schools in my own, only half of heads report that their schools are part of the CEC careers hub. That clearly needs to be scaled up. Since the abolition of Connexions in 2011, 2 million children and young people have not had access to independent careers professionals.

I would argue that we need massively to improve access to work experience, with only a third of pupils having completed work experience by the age of 18. A statutory duty, with resources to support a two-week placement, should be put in place. Where possible, we need to ensure that the work experience that a young person undertakes is relevant to their future ambitions. Beyond giving the important experience of the work environment, work experience should help those students better frame their future ambitions and make informed careers decisions.

That was brought home to me recently by a year 10 work experience student called Kevin, who chose to work in my constituency office because he felt it would be more interesting than the other opportunities on offer, but it was pretty clear that he wanted to be a firefighter. I have now put him in touch with our local fire service, and he used his experience to do a bit of research in my office when he was on placement there.

It is essential that any new Government strategy on careers advice focuses on work experience and ensures connections between schools, local authorities and local businesses. That will mean that pupils get more opportunities for their two-week work experience, which will help them make informed decisions. It will also help us, as legislators and politicians, to ensure we have a growing economy.

A new strategy must also deliver on one of the areas that we most need to change when it comes to careers guidance, which is apprenticeships. Although most students feel that they get plenty of guidance about university courses, only 10% feel the same way about apprenticeships. Too often, support for students considering apprenticeships or vocational education is much weaker than for those considering academic education. In some schools, every student creates a UCAS account by default, cementing the idea that higher education is the default option. We need to ensure that within careers advice apprenticeships and further education are put on the same footing as university education. We cannot continue with the disparity in information, advice and therefore access that we see all too often.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Conservative, Mid Sussex

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is an opportunity to link local economies, the labour market and businesses with apprenticeships if schools can organise that before people leave education? No one should be heading out of education not into the labour market, higher education or a traineeship. Does he see an opportunity to enact that via schools?

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Labour, Weaver Vale

I agree. In my constituency, Tata Chemicals Europe offers some brilliant apprenticeships, and at times it has really struggled to achieve the connection between the local school community and the apprenticeships on offer. I totally agree with that very good point.

As I have said previously, I was the first person in my family to go to university. I do not want a system that disadvantages students from working-class backgrounds and excludes higher education as a pathway if it is right for them. We must absolutely ensure that they are given the information and support they need to go to university and aspire to be the best they can be, but we should also ensure that people from all backgrounds make informed choices about the other brilliant opportunities on offer, such as apprenticeships, including those at levels 4 and 5, and those with a mixture of university and in-work training.

Students recognise that the situation with apprenticeships prevents them from properly considering them as an option. Some 31% think that having better information would have encouraged them, their friends and their classmates to choose an apprenticeship. It was also found that a number of people, including parents, reinforce the stigma associated with apprenticeships. We need to challenge parents and carers on that.

More funding and training for teachers is absolutely key if we are to reach parity of esteem between university and apprenticeship options. We must remove the idea that apprenticeships are not as valuable and almost second rate. To do that, we need a practical system to promote them. Having a central UCAS system means that universities can do active outreach around it. Teachers and other support staff, and generations of parents and carers, are also familiar with it. Students seeking apprenticeships deserve a system that is just as clear and effective and that is funded and supported.

Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke

I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s point about the potential stigma about apprenticeships compared with university, but that is not a question of funding—it is a question of attitude. It is about changing the mindset, rather than resources. There are resources. There is careers advice. We have created 5 million apprenticeships since 2010. It is people’s attitudes that need to change.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Labour, Weaver Vale

On the question of resourcing, if good quality, professional and impartial careers advice and guidance is not given in schools as part of education, then the stigma will remain, and there is an issue of resources there. The hon. Member is right to argue that it is not the only issue, but it is part of it.

UCAS currently advertises around 4,000 apprenticeships, and I think there are some 10,000 on the Government’s system. That is a tiny proportion of what is available. The Social Market Foundation’s recent research advocated for UCAS to be expanded to list all apprenticeship opportunities, in order to combat a system of university by default for many schools. Will the Minister outline what the Government plan to do to improve the provision of apprenticeships information and advice in schools? What assessment have they made of the value of creating a clearer system for apprenticeships information and applications, similar to that for university applications?

Although the statutory framework for careers guidance has been strengthened and the promotion of Gatsby quality benchmarks is good, resources for schools, after being drastically cut, have not been scaled up again. We will all be aware of some good practice in our local schools. Helsby High School in my patch has just won the pledge award through Cheshire and Warrington local enterprise partnership for its careers programme, but there are far too many schools where the quality is seriously wanting. The careers provision landscape is fragmented and piecemeal, with the Careers and Enterprise Company and a National Careers Service largely targeted at adults, schools employing their own careers advisers, with some not employing any at all.

I conclude with my asks of the Minister. An independent, all-age careers guidance service should be established. Rather than fragmentation, we should bring things together, including Jobcentre Plus. Ofsted inspections should be strengthened around impartial careers provision. A two-week work experience programme should be a statutory requirement and UCAS should be required to promote level 4 apprenticeships.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Conservative, Southend West 2:49, 13 July 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Rees.

The push by both parties over many years to get children to university has been a huge step in the right direction for many people and for social mobility. Now, a record 37.9% of young people go to university, but I believe we need to focus more on the careers guidance young people are given, especially the 60% of them who will not go to university. I have been hosting students from my constituency all summer—indeed, I have one sitting behind me—and it has given me a real insight into how they are taught at school. Not a single one of my holiday students thinks there is credible path to a good career other than going to university. Clearly, then, although university is the right path for many, we are not focusing enough on the 60% who do not go to university. Because the university “brand” has become so established and embedded, careers advice has to start as early as primary school if it is to be effective and to change hearts and minds.

One of the best schemes developed under the Conservatives has been apprenticeships, which allow people to gain qualifications and training on the job and to equip themselves with the skills they need to succeed in jobs across all sectors. I am proud to say that in Southend West, we have 830 young people undertaking apprenticeships, and 290 started a new apprenticeship this academic year. I applaud the local businesses that support these schemes, and I am delighted that Southend airport is to welcome two brand-new apprenticeships in the coming weeks.

Now, however, there are brilliant degree apprenticeships, which enable people not only to gain a full undergraduate or masters degree, but to earn while they do it and of course have a job at the end of it. Degree apprenticeships take between three and six years to complete, depending on the course level, with people spending most of their time working. They might attend university for one or two days a week, or in short blocks of, say, a week at a time, but overall people spend about 20% of their time studying and 80% working.

People leave a completed degree apprenticeship with no debt, having gained huge transferable skills, and with a good job to walk straight into. It really is a win-win-win for our young people, but sadly they are not being directed toward degree apprenticeships. According to the Centre for Social Justice, only 41% of 11 to 16-year-olds said that a teacher had discussed apprenticeships with them, and just 21% of teachers were reported to advise high-performing students to take an apprenticeship rather than a university place. That is backed up clearly by my experience of touring schools and talking to students across my constituency. This needs to change.

Many jobs vital to our economy require skills in science, technology, engineering, manufacturing and maths —skills that could be taught better and more effectively through apprenticeships. I am sure the Minister agrees with me that careers advisers in schools must do better on encouraging pupils to consider apprenticeships, particularly degree apprenticeships.

For many years, the only option at 16 was A-levels. I am pleased that the Conservatives have been working hard to change that, and we have made excellent progress. The Education Committee is reviewing and working on a huge report on the subject. Another option now is T-levels, which provide an excellent way for students to gain a high-quality technical qualification with the same prestige as A-levels. Sadly though, hardly any young people know about T-levels—none of my work experience students had even heard of them. That is simply not good enough. I am sure the Government want to improve the situation. Careers advisers in schools must ensure that students understand the full gamut of opportunities available to them, and that they abide by the Baker clause in the Technical and Further Education Act 2017, which requires schools to discuss technical education options with pupils.

Our children deserve the best-quality education, which must include the best-quality advice to achieve their dreams. Southend West is blessed with many high-tech industries that already, as I always tell the Chancellor, contribute more than £3 billion to the UK economy each year. Our children must be given the right careers advice to enable them to achieve their potential, whatever form that takes.

Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Conservative, Broadland 2:55, 13 July 2022

I welcome the Minister to her place. Until last week, she was my Whip, so there may be a degree of Stockholm syndrome in my coming here to support her today. Even if she was not the Minister, however, I would be keen to take part in this important debate, because change has been afoot in our economy over the last 10 to 15 years. When I was at school, I was not asked, “the Army or the pit?”, but the choice was similarly limited. It is noticeable that, even at my school, there was no mention of going into business. It was just not expected, which is pretty devastating, and may explain some of the issues in the economy.

There is now a bewildering array of opportunities for the transition from secondary education to the next stage of life. I have never been more optimistic for the future of children and young people coming up through secondary education. There is a wealth of opportunity that did not exist even five years ago.

Let us look at my constituency, which is made up of largely rural farming communities in Norfolk. In the last few weeks, I visited a rocket company that specialises in testing satellites in microgravity conditions. Fischer Farms is building the world’s—or certainly Europe’s—largest vertical farm, which is wholly reliant on robotics and artificial intelligence. Some 17 GW of offshore renewable wind will be located in the southern North sea between now and 2030, a large chunk of which will come to shore in Norfolk, with all the attendant jobs and careers. There is not just one film studio; a second, and arguably a third, is being proposed. They are all exciting new opportunities.

I have not even mentioned the research going on in Norwich at the John Innes Centre, which employs 250 scientists at the cutting edge of gene editing, gene therapy and biosciences. There is also specialist engineering at Lotus in Hethersett. I could go on—and that is before we get anywhere near Cambridge, which is a huge hotbed of exciting developments.

School leavers have the world at their feet, but because that is so exciting, because there are so many opportunities, and because it is so different and new, it is daunting, and there is a correspondingly enormous need for support. When I was starting out, I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. If any young person is unfortunate enough to be listening to this debate, I reassure them that that is absolutely normal. In fact, the number of people who know clearly what they want to do in life is vanishingly small. Finding out is a process. As we develop through our experiences, our aspirations and ambitions develop as well.

The Government are right to have moved away from Labour’s 1999 target of funnelling 50% of all school leavers into tertiary education—into universities. In my experience, that was damaging, because many people were shoehorned into an educational environment that simply did not suit their academic inclinations or the line of career development that they would later take. At the same time, there was a proliferation of unsuitable courses, as academic institutions tried to maximise their fees. It is not surprising that 6% of all those funnelled into tertiary education ended up dropping out in the first year, which was a huge loss of their time, energy and money.

A very large chunk—not a majority, I am pleased to say, but up to a third—of graduates did not get the benefit of their tertiary education within the next three, five or even 10 years. Fully a third of them were not in graduate employment five to 10 years after their graduation. That illustrates a philosophical difference between the approach of Labour and that of the Conservative party. Labour’s go-to approach is one of social engineering via targets, whereas we in the Conservatives want to give people choices. We want to open up the world, and we trust people to make up their mind. We see that this very week in the Conservative party leadership election. The Labour party talks about diversity—they want targets—but they are led by a middle-aged white male. I have nothing against them, but look at the Conservative party—the most diverse group of people. I think we are about to have the third female Conservative Prime Minister, and if we do not, we are highly likely to have our first ethnic minority Prime Minister. Is that not wonderful? And it is achieved not through targets, not through telling people, but by providing choice, opportunity and personal responsibility.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Labour, Weaver Vale

Also in the Conservative leadership contest, there have been promises of tax cuts totalling over £300 billion so far. Those cuts would have consequences for public services providing the advice and guidance that schools and pupils need in communities up and down the country. Some of those promises are folly, to be frank.

Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Conservative, Broadland

I believe that the figure of £300 billion could come about if we had eight Prime Ministers all at once, rather than one at a time. If we take them sequentially, the offers range between £13 billion in tax cuts over the course of the Parliament, and £39 billion in tax cuts if my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt is elected.

I have talked about the opportunities in my constituency, but I also welcome the growth of apprenticeships as a viable alternative to tertiary education. It has already been mentioned in the debate, but it is worth mentioning again, that under Conservative-led Governments since 2010, more than 5 million apprenticeships have been undertaken—and the number is growing. Last year, there was an 8.1% growth in the adoption of apprenticeships, and that is an accelerating trend.

Earlier, someone mentioned—I cannot remember who—the problems with attitudes. It is parental attitudes primarily, not those of children, that need to be addressed. However, the data appears to suggest that that barrier is beginning to be broken down, which I heartily welcome. I also heartily welcome the universal technical colleges that have sprung up as a result of our innovative education programme, and the success through diversity in our educational provision. We have a UTC in Norwich; I am sorry to say that it is just outside my constituency, but we provide students to it. I visited it about six months ago and I was amazed by the links, and the dissolution of the barrier, between formal education and employment. Technical courses, on which there is a lot of work experience, are leading directly to employment.

Students are achieving T-levels, which are an excellent qualification that we need to build on. In some cases, the courses lead on to very well paid tertiary apprenticeships; but—there is quite a big “but” with universal technical colleges—pupils are drawn into the educational framework at the age of 14. I welcome the Government’s proposal to increase the age range during which careers advice is supplied, because some decisions have to be taken remarkably early. That applies particularly to those who are more capable of following the UTC route than other routes. We should think about that and build on it.

There are huge opportunities right now for people as they leave secondary education. Unemployment is at record lows—there is effectively full employment. In my constituency, the last time I checked, the unemployment rate was at just 2.1%; that is full functional employment. In fact, we have a need for more people. That creates opportunities.

Technical training through the UTCs and elsewhere is leading to the new industries that I have talked about. There is an increase in apprenticeships, whether they are tertiary apprenticeships or more technical ones. These are great; they are real opportunities. They are more diverse and complex, but I am really glad that the Government are getting behind them through careers advice.

Education does not stop when we leave school, and it does not stop at an apprenticeship. I particularly welcome the Government’s commitment to lifelong learning through the lifelong loan scheme and the lifelong learning entitlement. The modern economy requires that we develop and change our careers. I am on my third significant career, which may be one career too many for those on the Opposition Benches, but it is the modern way. It is exciting and a bit more nerve-wracking. We need to reskill, re-energise and go for additional careers. I am on the side of working people throughout their varied careers, and I am very pleased to be part of a party that supports that.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland 3:06, 13 July 2022

I congratulate Mike Amesbury on opening the debate, and on a very well reasoned and well argued speech, and I welcome my hon. Friend the Minister to her place. Like my hon. Friend Jerome Mayhew, I am excited about the opportunities for young people in my constituency, and I want to make sure that careers advice in our schools engages with the breadth and richness of the opportunities.

As the hon. Member for Weaver Vale said in his opening remarks, we all have to accept that there was never really a golden age for careers advice. He gave a good example of bad careers advice and limited options being presented. During my time at the Department for Education, I was pleased to contribute to a White Paper that took forward the argument for having careers advice in all our schools, but particularly in primary schools, as my hon. Friend Anna Firth mentioned. It is very important to set those aspirations and open up opportunities for people earlier.

The hon. Member for Weaver Vale directly addressed the challenge of people being presented with too limited opportunities. Something that I have seen done really well in some schools, but that could be done in many more of them, is opening up to young children a range of opportunities and different places where they could work, and I want to talk about a few of those opportunities in my constituency. There is a wonderful school in one of the most deprived areas of my constituency of Worcester called Cranham Primary, where the excellent headteacher Mr Cale—I think he was the deputy head when I used to go in and support him in his careers lessons—holds a “careers with Cale” session. He gets different people in, such as policemen, postmen or the local MP—most famously, he held one session just before Christmas with Father Christmas, which is an unusual career to get people to aspire to—to talk about what they do, and to raise aspirations by discussing the range of activities that people can do.

Perry Wood Primary School in my constituency also holds primary careers fairs, and gets a whole range of people—from engineers to police officers and farmers—to talk about the span of opportunities. We should support that. The schools White Paper says:

“We want all children to be inspired by the options available to them when they leave school or college. We will launch a new careers programme for primary schools in areas of disadvantage and are extending the legal requirement to provide independent careers guidance to all secondary school children, as well as increasing the opportunities for them to meet providers of apprenticeships and technical education.”

My hon. Friends the Members for Southend West, and for Broadland, pressed that point hard, and it is essential that we deliver on that. I hope that we can ensure that the programme supporting primary schools in areas of deprivation is backed not just in education investment areas, and areas in which we are setting out additional policy initiatives, but in pockets of deprivation in every constituency in the country, because we all have schools in areas where there are greater challenges, and where career aspirations are perhaps more limited.

Ahead of the debate—this is one reason why I was keen to speak in it—I was fortunate to talk to the organisation Primary Futures, which is engaging with schools up and down the country. I heard about the work it has done at Hollymount School in my constituency. I happen to be very familiar with the school, because before I became an MP, when I was a parliamentary candidate, I used to volunteer to read with the children. Primary Futures describes the school as “a non-selective state primary school serving an area of severe social deprivation in the Tolladine area of Worcester”. It has been doing some research with the University of Warwick, talking to the children about their aspirations, and there are some welcome findings. The vast majority of pupils surveyed—37 out of 44—believed that:

“English, Maths and Science can help me when I grow up”.

A similar number believed that:

“Learning at school is important for my future job”, and a significant majority—nearly 30 out of the 44— agreed with the proposition that:

“There are lots of different jobs for me to do when I grow up”.

So far, so good.

Particularly pleasing is that, on the question whether

“Girls and boys can do the same job”, more than 90% said yes, and not a single pupil said no. I was pleased because one of the last things I did as Minister for School Standards was give evidence to the Science and Technology Committee about girls in STEM. It is clear that there are no barriers to girls succeeding in STEM—succeeding in maths or physics—barring those that are artificially placed in front of them. We must keep on challenging those artificial barriers and encouraging people to pursue those careers.

In opening the debate, the hon. Member for Weaver Vale made many very good points. I absolutely agree with him about encouraging more employers to provide work experience placements. Where I perhaps disagree with him, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Broadland, is on the need for centralisation in this space. I think that the Careers and Enterprise Company has done some very good work; it has encouraged businesses from across the private sector to engage with schools in a way that they perhaps were not doing a few years ago. Organisations such as Primary Futures also do great work.

I happen to know—from my own patch but also from speaking to people in the Department for Education about it—that we have a fantastically well-functioning careers hub in Worcestershire, which is successfully getting that connectivity between schools and the private sector. It is bringing businesses in to talk to primary and secondary schools. If we can do it in Worcestershire, I am pretty sure that it can be done in other areas of the country, with the right support from organisations such as local enterprise partnerships, chambers of commerce, businesses and councils. I would like to see that happening much more widely.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education)

I, too, have seen some excellent provision through careers hubs, but the hon. Member is right that it is inconsistent. Does he know whether those hubs are actually leading to different work experiences for young people? Far too often, I see a form sent home with the child: “Find your own work experience and write the name here. We’ll make sure that you’re not going to die while you’re there.” That is basically all that schools want to know. What we really need to see is not the milkman’s son going to work with his dad, and the politician’s son going with his, but people getting experiences that are different from what they are already used to. Is he aware of those kinds of experiences in his hub?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

I do not disagree at all with what the hon. Gentleman has said. Absolutely, we want to give people those experiences. I talk to a lot of my engineering companies in Worcester, and one of their frustrations is that they feel that the image that people have of engineering is of where it was 30 or 40 years ago, with the traditional, metal-bashing image. What they are doing now is much more exciting, and much more engaging for young people visiting from schools. The working environment is also much better than it was.

Absolutely, getting people into a workplace that they might not necessarily know about must be part of this. That is something that our careers hub in Worcestershire does very well, and we have seen that, in particular, in the cyber-security sector. Nobody learns that at school, but they can learn the maths, computing and skills that can take them in that direction. Those companies are getting into schools to run code clubs, and they are getting children from the schools to come and do work experience. They tend to be the small businesses that, traditionally, careers advice did not look at.

I absolutely recognise that the box-ticking approach that Mr Perkins described was sometimes a problem in the past, but I think it is actually more likely to be a problem in a centralised system than in one that encourages direct engagement between schools and employers.

I very much welcome this debate and am grateful for the chance to contribute to it. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to take forward the opportunity for work in the White Paper, to continue to engage with apprenticeships and employers, and to ensure that we also take the opportunity to raise aspirations in primary schools.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Conservative, Mid Sussex 3:15, 13 July 2022

Thank you, Ms Rees, for calling me to speak in this really interesting debate. I also thank Mike Amesbury for approaching it in exactly the right way.

My earlier intervention, about tracking where our young people go next after leaving school, still stands, and it is a point that I am pleased to be able to expand on. We know when people are not going to achieve their desired outcomes or pass their exams: when they go AWOL and fall off the radar. I know from my previous role as employment Minister that the next time we pick them up, in a jobcentre and on to the next stage in their careers, is quite often after they have had a stay at the Ministry of Justice, or developed health conditions, addictions or other challenges that need to be unpicked. I strongly believe that, with the right interventions in the mid-teenage years, we can ensure that everybody can go into a fulfilling career. If exams and university are not the route, that really matters—as we heard from my hon. Friend Anna Firth, that applies to 60% of our young people.

I would like us to talk, in schools and more broadly, about the reality of a life of jobs. Unless people are very lucky, they do not go into a career or get a job for life—career-wise, we all live in insecure times in this place. We need to speak about jobs, roles and sectors, and about things changing, to inspire and enable our kids to take the opportunity of education into the world of work and not feel that education and learning happens only in schools, colleges or universities, or that it always has a label, like T-levels or indeed A-levels. Rather, it is absolutely part of working life. Some of us might have been in a very different job five years ago, and we might not even know about the job that we could have in five years’ time.

We need to empower our young people not to think that studying happens purely at school, college or university, but to understand that it is never over and that what they get from a good education—learning and having the confidence to take on new skills and abilities—is what they need to take them into a long-term career. We need to build an agile mindset into our young people. We need to help people to be ready to join the labour market at any age or any stage.

I welcome my hon. Friend the Minister to the Front Bench—it is good to see her there. With my former employment Minister hat on, let me say that we should also absolutely tackle job snobbery. There is no such thing as good or bad work. We have all done jobs that we did not generally enjoy quite so much—they are less lucrative and “valuable” in people’s minds. But let us be honest that during the pandemic we started to understand who and what really meant everything to our lives. Many of those people were performing roles that, coming into the pandemic, we simply did not understand or fully appreciate. The mantra should be ABC—any job, better job, career—because guess what: people are never more attractive than when they are in a job. That is wrong, but it is a fact, because those soft skills and that confidence—I wish I had a penny for every time I heard the word “confidence” when it comes to changing or transitioning roles because of the pandemic—are absolutely key.

We need to instil that confidence through good careers advice in our schools and allow them to open up and spend time with their local economies. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend Jerome Mayhew about that. People could live right next to the Cadbury factory or the theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, but have never been inside. People can feel very locked out, even in their own communities. Schools should not just be unlocking careers or education, but should be unlocking opportunity that is right on the doorstep. No one should need to move to find opportunity.

Photo of Anna Firth Anna Firth Conservative, Southend West

I totally agree with my hon. Friend that schools should be the ones to give this advice. I raised the issue this morning with the headmaster of Westcliff High School for Boys, which is in my patch, and he said that one size does not fit all. The funding for careers advice must go to schools, because they know their local area and the different opportunities that are available. Does my hon. Friend agree that we absolutely must put schools in charge of this funding and this advice?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Conservative, Mid Sussex

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend, but I am conscious of the need not to overburden schools. Let us find the bridge here—the career services and the links to the local labour market. There are good ways to assist schools with this work—Jobcentre Plus, LEPs, growth funds and Mayors—but schools also have to be absolutely determined to look at careers and long-term outcomes for young people and not solely at exam results. We have to make sure that we do not judge whether a school is good based solely on exam results; it is about where young people come from and where they get to—their progression—and some people’s progression is not simply about exam results.

That leads me to the work of the kickstart programme. Despite the pandemic, we got 163,000 young people under 25, who were those most at risk of long-term unemployment, into their first jobs. How did we do that? We got the employers into the jobcentres and we put people together. We threw out CVs, because no one has experience until they have experience—of course they do not, particularly in a pandemic. That work provided life-changing opportunities for young people, but above all it stopped people asking for the finished article. Who here has gone into a role—this role, any role—as the finished article? We have to help employers to stop looking for the finished article and to think about how they were mentored when they went into that sector. We should take them back to where they were before they came into their grand or great role.

Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Conservative, Broadland

Does my hon. Friend agree that the full functional employment we have now, with many companies facing a dearth of staff—I refer to my former entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, in that I was an employer and often struggled to find staff—will help to change employers’ attitudes, so that they work with what they have, bring people on and help to develop people’s careers in situ?

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies Conservative, Mid Sussex

I say to my hon. Friend that there is nothing wrong with being an employer. We need people to take those risks, opportunities and leadership roles, but they have to have the experience and the start-up to get there.

I genuinely think we are seeing a sea change with careers and employers, and that lets me explain a little more about the kickstart roles that were created. We have heard anecdotally that around seven in 10 people have stayed with their existing employer, but we also found that many other people had undiagnosed health conditions, challenges at home or other issues that meant going into the wider labour market was simply never going to happen for them, and that was exacerbated by the pandemic.

When I was at the Department for Work and Pensions, we therefore opened over 150 youth hubs. Those were locally led, and included the careers service, local authorities, jobcentres and employers. People could go into a safer, more relaxed and more comfortable space to have a one-to-one conversation along the lines of, “What can you do, and what are you interested in?” If employers can spark that interest in our young people, or in anybody at any age or any career stage, rather than talking about what people cannot do, they can take a chance on people. With near full employment—employment is at almost 80% in some parts of the country—employers are having to do that. They are throwing out the usual way of doing things and putting time and training into people, and I do not think anybody really regrets that, do they?

On universities—my hon. Friend Mr Walker and others put this brilliantly—we really have to help those who perhaps feel that there is a stigma about not going to university. We are sending people to university who are potentially wasting their time there and who could be doing something much more productive and beneficial in the local labour market. However, that can be done only based on really strong, good reading skills and digital skills, and while many young people and many of us generally can hide behind our mobile phones and feel that we have digital skills, we simply do not.

We need to tackle the STEM challenge strongly, talking about the skills needed for different sectors and jobs and what is transferable, but we cannot do that without face-to-face support. We know that works in jobcentres and with training. Online courses do not equip people with enough to get into those sectors and areas, so they can do some of that training, but they also need practical, individual human support. It is vital that we give them that and tackle the STEM issue as a result.

In Mid Sussex, we recently had a STEM event, chaired by Phil Todd and linked to the Burgess Hill Business Park Association, where schools came to spend a wonderful day building bridges, weighing things, creating things, working on projects and working with local businesses that they simply would not have known were there. In fact, 70% of jobs in Mid Sussex are not on the high street; they are in small industrial areas, back bedrooms, villages and areas that are not seen, and they are exporting globally. People do not need to work in a big building to have big opportunities; it is important that young people see that.

On good careers advice, the main thing is to give people confidence that it is not about where they start but where they end up. I have enjoyed yoghurt making, selling kitchens, working in Little Chef and selling mobile phones and pagers—remember them? I want to return to the issue of job snobbery, because pubs, restaurants and hospitality are places that we love, and we miss them when they are not open and cannot serve us. When we go on holiday and go abroad, we see how those places are revered. People can progress quickly in that sector. So let us talk about careers as a whole. I will conclude, Ms Rees, as I am sure that time is against us.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education) 3:27, 13 July 2022

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Rees. I congratulate my hon. Friend Mike Amesbury on securing this crucial debate and on the way in which he presented it, bringing his considerable experience to benefit the House. The debate is particularly timely, given that pupils across the country will be undertaking exams and turning their attention to their future careers. Indeed, many year 10 students are doing work experience as we speak.

I welcome the Minister to her position and congratulate her on her appointment. The speed of change in the Government in recent weeks has been bewildering for us all and, if we have had trouble keeping up with who is in and who is out, imagine what it has been like for the poor civil servants. It is fair to say that while it can sometimes be hard to be seen in a crowded field, her appointment and the very particular charm offensive with which she attempted to win over hearts and minds has certainly not gone unnoticed.

The debate is vital. The Labour party has long been of the view that the Government’s lack of commitment to work experience and careers guidance has been a damaging failure. In recent months, the Government have been at pains to prove that their attitude to work experience and careers guidance has changed. It could be coming true—who knows? Proving that their words can match their deeds, under the Prime Minister we now have Ministers themselves trying out work experience. Michelle Donelan got to try out being Secretary of State for a day—Labour prefers two weeks, but at least a day was better than nothing—and the Minister is on an extended two-month work trial that she hopes will go from temp to perm. Of course, unlike the traineeships that the Government are so keen to trumpet, that work experience is very much not unpaid, with the right hon. Member for Chippenham racking up generous severance pay for her 24 hours of labour. [Interruption.] Indeed.

On a more serious note, I would like to reflect on some of the valuable contributions made by hon. Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale brought tremendous experience to bear, focused particularly on the funding and the inconsistency of service across the country. The points he made were knowledgeable and very much matched the experience that I had. Jack Lopresti said that we need to change attitudes to apprenticeships and trumpet their success. He is absolutely right: I want every school to declare not only the numbers of students going to university but how many attained apprenticeships. If we were trumpeting and saluting students who got apprenticeships alongside those who went into universities, maybe parents would get the message that apprenticeships are a positive step for young people.

Anna Firth reflected on something that I have heard so many times: every one of the students who she had through her office had only been introduced to the idea of going to university. That is something that we hear so much. Jerome Mayhew reflected that, in his area, opportunities were so plentiful that support is needed because the array of careers is so daunting. I have to say that does not reflect the message I hear from many students; the message they get at school is to first go into sixth form and then to university. The sense of an array of options is far too often missing.

I particularly enjoyed the speech from Mims Davies who said, very accurately, something we all recognise: we have all had jobs that we do not enjoy much—whether she was referring to being a Conservative Member of Parliament in recent weeks or to her previous employment, she did not say. The hon. Member also said that new starters will not be the finished article. That is an important point for any Conservative Members going to hustings in future weeks to reflect on.

At the heart of the debate is the aim of equipping young people with the right tools to ensure they are ready for work and life. In 2010, the coalition Government axed Connexions, which led to the demise of universal provision for careers guidance. The reality is that we had five years where the provision was absolutely pitiful. There have been improvements since then; it is only fair to reflect that. However, whatever the faults of the Connexions service, it was a colossal failure to leave young people and adults, particularly from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, without the access to advice and support that children with wealthier and better connected parents are able to take for granted.

On work experience, like Mr Walker I have witnessed some excellent provision. I visited a really good careers hub in the Black Country in recent months. However, even The Careers and Enterprise company itself would concede that the quality of those hubs and the shared best practice are inconsistent across different areas. The hon. Gentleman said that good practice needs to be much more widely available, and I certainly agree with that. I still think it is highly questionable whether leaving schools in charge of their pupils’ careers guidance will ever work. It is the Opposition’s view that careers guidance is a profession; it is not an add-on to a deputy headteacher’s job.

The awful legacy of the lack of careers guidance has been far too many young people leaving school without adequate careers advice. It has been a shameful failure of education and skills policy that will have left a lasting legacy on some of those affected—now in adulthood, without having had access to that advice. It is worth reminding ourselves that, even pre-pandemic, almost 800,000 young people were not in education, employment or training. That illustrates why it is essential that school leavers exit full-time education fully aware of the local labour market and the opportunities on offer.

That is why, during the passage of the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, Labour backed the Baker clause, which proposed that schools must allow colleges and training providers to access every student in years 8 to 13 to discuss non-academic routes available to them, and that each student should have three meaningful interactions with different providers at each stage of their educational journey. It is hugely regrettable that the Government did not adopt that recommendation in full, as their lordships had supported. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister, if she remains in post, whether the Government would be minded to allow the full Baker clause to be adopted. In my experience, schools will often have a primary focus on ensuring that the majority of their year 11 students are pushed toward the school’s own sixth form. If there is a financial need to ensure that there are x number of students at a sixth form, it is hard to see how schools will be genuinely independent in the message they are passing on to young people, as the hon. Member for Mid Sussex reflected on earlier.

Parents naturally want to see their children succeed with high attainment in subject-based learning. However, many are increasingly concerned that their children should leave school as well-rounded individuals too, with the skills to succeed in the wider world. Currently, the availability and quality of careers advice remains patchy. The Government must move further and faster to equip children with the skills they require and ensure that there is a greater consistency across all areas.

The hon. Member for Worcester said that the service does not necessarily need to be the same in all areas, but what we do need is a minimum standard that is not only legislated for—we have legislation—but monitored and assessed against, whether that be through provision that the schools have to book or through an independent service. The sentiment that the availability and quality of careers advice is patchy and needs to improve is echoed by teachers, parents, children, employers and, indeed, by many of the contributions we have heard today.

According to Parentkind’s 2021 “Parent Voice” report, just half of parents said that their child’s school offered good careers advice. The Centre for Education and Youth’s “Enriching Education Recovery” report makes clear that the vast majority of teachers, parents and children agree that there should be improved access. This is echoed by the business community. In 2019, a Confederation of British Industry survey said that 44% of employers felt that young people leaving education were not work-ready. The hon. Member for Mid Sussex reflected similar sentiments about ensuring that being well-educated in school subjects also reflected the work-readiness of young people leaving our statutory education system. The CBI survey also highlighted the geographic variation in engagement with employers and educational settings. As the hon. Member for Broadland said, it is so important that local economies are reflected in terms of the experiences that young people have.

Students in rural and coastal areas often face a postcode lottery on access to joined-up support. The Sutton Trust has concluded that all pupils should receive a guaranteed level of careers advice. A recent Careers England survey revealed that three quarters of schools have insufficient, limited or no funding with which to deliver what is needed. About a third of secondary schools say that they receive the equivalent of £5 per student, with 5% receiving as little as £2 per student, as my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale reflected earlier.

The inclusion of the Gatsby benchmarks as part of the Department for Education’s statutory guidance on careers education represents welcome, though modest, progress. There has been a long history of Government statute failing to be implemented on the ground. Labour is backing pupils, parents, business and educators with its pledge to give every child access to quality face-to-face careers advice in their schools. Our proposal, set out by my right hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer at last year’s Labour party conference, would provide face-to-face, professional and independent careers advice for every school pupil.

It is also vital that young people have a thorough knowledge and understanding of their local labour market. That is why the next Labour Government will reintroduce two weeks of compulsory work experience for every child. As I said to the hon. Member for Worcester, it is important that that reflects the breadth of opportunities and is not narrowed down to a self-selected form sent home with children.

We will reverse that removal from the curriculum by the coalition Government to equip young people with the skills that they need, so that there is work experience in the school curriculum. In addition to support for schools, we will work with business communities to ensure that they offer the placements needed. Once again, Labour is committed to restoring a skills-led agenda for our children. It is crucial that that is addressed at the earliest possible opportunity.

In responding for the Government, will the Minister say whether they will allow every child to receive three independent options of careers at each stage of their school journey, as proposed by the Baker clause? If not, why does she consider that not the right direction to go in? Does she recognise the criticism that some schools are so determined to get all their top students into their own sixth forms that they deliberately reduce the number of alternative options presented to children? If she does, what does she propose to do about it? Does she believe that a school with substandard careers guidance should still be able to be ranked as outstanding? Does she agree with Labour’s plan—as the hon. Member for Mid Sussex sensibly does—to ensure that every child receives at least one face-to-face careers guidance appointment? If not, what does the Minister think is an appropriate standard?

This is a crucial debate on a subject that has the potential to be life-changing for young learners. It is an area for which Labour, under my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras, has already made concrete proposals, and one that the Government must begin to take more seriously for the sake of the next generation of workers and for our nation’s economy.

Photo of Andrea Jenkyns Andrea Jenkyns The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 3:41, 13 July 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Rees.

I congratulate Mike Amesbury on securing this important debate. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to talk about the importance of careers guidance. Like the hon. Member, I was the first in my family to go to university, as a mature student. I agree with him that all schoolchildren should be made aware of the vast array of options available to them, including FE, HE, apprenticeships, the new T-levels and the work environment. I hope he feels that, as I delve deeper into my speech, I answer some of the questions and respond to some of the points made.

Careers guidance in schools is a fascinating part of my new brief at the Department for Education, and it has never been more significant. High-quality careers guidance is an essential underpinning of the Government’s schools, skills and levelling-up reforms. I may not agree with the hon. Member for Weaver Vale on everything, but today’s debate underlines the shared commitment to ensuring that all young people get the advice and help they need to pursue their chosen path in life. I pay tribute to his excellent work during his many years in the careers service. We are fortunate to have the benefit of his experience and knowledge of this most important issue.

I will talk about our vision for careers guidance in schools and set out three key ways in which we are realising that vision: first, a world-class careers framework for schools; secondly, our significant investment in support to help schools and colleges to improve their careers offer; and thirdly, our innovative plans to improve the quality of information and data that will help young people to navigate their career choices. In our vision, careers guidance will connect our young people to opportunity and will equip them with the support that they need to succeed. That is a critical point for unlocking individual potential and for boosting the long-term economic prosperity of our great country.

Our skills reforms are transforming opportunities for young people. High-quality careers guidance is crucial if we are to capitalise on the skills revolution. It is important not only that we seek to provide better choices, but that we give clarity to young people and their parents about what those choices might offer. A few people in the Chamber touched on that point today. Our mission is to drive the quality of careers guidance in schools. That begins with a framework to guarantee access to independent careers guidance for every pupil. It offers a clear sense of what good looks like, and it will hold schools accountable for progress.

This September, new legislation to extend the legal entitlement to independent careers guidance to all secondary school-aged pupils in all types of schools will be implemented. I commend my hon. Friend Mark Jenkinson—who is not present, I am afraid—for sponsoring that legislation. The implementation of that careers guidance Act will be followed swiftly, in January, by a significant strengthening of provider access legislation: the duty on schools to invite the providers of technical education or apprenticeships to talk to pupils. Again, we have touched on that today.

Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on her appointment, and say how thrilled and proud I am? Does she agree that apprenticeships are a fantastic way not only to enhance social mobility, but to increase the skills level in order to maintain our sovereign defence manufacturing capability? That will not only enable us to defend our country better in the decades to come, but create lots of jobs.

Photo of Andrea Jenkyns Andrea Jenkyns The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I thank my honourable husband, or should I say my hon. Friend? I obviously agree with him—although I don’t usually—that we are not only defending our country and the people of Ukraine, but benefiting from that capability.

In January, there was a significant strengthening of provider access legislation, with the duty on schools to invite providers of technical education or apprenticeships to talk to pupils. As Mr Perkins said, there will be at least six opportunities for pupils to have high-quality encounters with different providers throughout school years 8 to 13, so that they can understand and explore technical choices before making vital decisions about their next steps.

Our adoption of the Gatsby benchmarks as a career framework has been a great success. From a standing start in 2018, more than 4,200 secondary schools and colleges are using them to develop and improve their careers programmes. The benchmarks are based on international best practice and describe all the crucial components of a world-class careers programme for young people. Since the launch of the Government’s careers strategy in 2017, we have seen improvements across every dimension of careers guidance, with a particularly strong performance by schools in disadvantaged areas. There was a question about the strategy, which I will touch on later.

It is incredibly valuable to be able to measure the inputs of schools into careers guidance and to see that outcomes are improving. Early analysis shows a positive link between careers education, as assessed by the Gatsby benchmarks, and young people going into sustained education, employment and training after leaving school. A recent study based on data from nearly 2,400 schools shows that when Gatsby benchmarks are achieved by a school, that increases the likelihood of a student being in education, employment or training after year 11. It amounts to a 10% reduction in the proportion of students who are not in education, employment or training post-16 if schools meet all eight benchmarks, compared to schools that achieve none. Importantly, the reduction is twice as great, at 20%, in schools with the most disadvantaged students. We know what is working well and we know where schools are finding it difficult to implement the benchmarks, and that allows us to target our support more effectively.

To realise the maximum value from our investment in careers guidance, we are strengthening the accountability framework for secondary schools. On all graded inspections, Ofsted inspectors assess the quality of careers education, information, advice and guidance on how much it benefits pupils in deciding on their next steps. It is important that pupils feel they are at the centre of that journey. If a school is not meeting the requirements of the provider access legislation, inspectors will state it in the published inspection report and consider what impact it has on the quality of careers provision, and the subsequent judgment for personal development.

We have developed a model to support schools in improving their careers offer.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education)

The Minister spoke about the importance of the Gatsby benchmarks and the evidence that they improve outcomes, and said that careers guidance will now be checked by Ofsted. Does she think it should be possible for a school that does not meet the benchmarks to be assessed as outstanding, despite having inadequate careers guidance?

Photo of Andrea Jenkyns Andrea Jenkyns The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The hon. Gentleman has touched on an important point. It is important not only to give support to the schools in question but to note that in the Ofsted inspection report.

On support for schools to improve their careers offer, we have developed a model that is proven to accelerate improvements in careers guidance. Schools do better if they are part of networks of regional careers hubs—as we see in our local areas—and enterprise advisers. Careers hubs are local partnerships among schools, colleges, businesses, providers and the voluntary sector that enable the sharing of best practice to enhance careers provision. Enterprise advisers are business professionals who work with schools and colleges to strengthen careers strategies and employment engagement plans.

By linking such networks, schools work much more closely with employers and the local enterprise partnerships. This model is crucial to drive the quality of careers provision locally. It promotes the sharing of best practice and economic information and intelligence. Alongside that, we encourage every secondary school to have a trained careers leader, to make the most of the connections and co-ordinate and integrate the careers programme throughout the school, with the backing of their headteacher.

To underpin the delivery of this excellent model, we are investing £29 million this year in the Careers and Enterprise Company. With that funding, the CEC is supporting schools and colleges to implement the Gatsby benchmarks by extending the careers hubs, the enterprise adviser network, the careers leaders training and digital support. I am delighted that all secondary schools and colleges across Weaver Vale are now benefiting from that support; we intend to replicate that throughout the country.

Allow me to share some of the numbers behind our investment. More than 2,200 careers leaders have engaged in funded training since the scheme was launched in 2018. To touch on the question that the hon. Member for Weaver Vale asked, two thirds of schools and colleges in England were part of a careers hub by September 2021. As we work towards the full roll-out, that proportion will increase to approximately 90%, which will mean 4,500 schools and colleges will benefit from a careers hub by August next year. Around 3,750 business professionals work as enterprise advisers with schools and colleges to develop their careers strategies and employment engagement plans.

I am sure everybody here will agree that more important than the numbers is the impact of our investment on young people. The engagement of employers at scale is crucial to the improvements in careers guidance that we are seeing. Employers provide inspiration and insight to young people, deliver hands-on experience of the workplace, highlight pathways into work, and are increasingly helping to integrate careers learning into the curriculum.

Let me give a few examples. Thomas Dudley, a 100-year-old manufacturing company in the west midlands, has worked with local schools to develop mini challenges in history, business, design, English and maths that link those topics with jobs in the local economy. Pupils then visit the business and experience how the skills they have learned can translate into their future career.

Let me share a couple of examples of the excellent work in the area of the hon. Member for Weaver Vale. Greenbank School has helped employers to be more confident in supporting people with autism. Supported by the CEC’s Cheshire and Warrington enterprise adviser network, the school adapted its autism training to better meet the needs of employers and give them an insight in the challenges that young people with autism face. The training was delivered to numerous local employers, including Bentley, Siemens and the NHS.

Sir John Deane’s College has secured prestigious degree apprenticeships for its pupils with major companies including Rolls-Royce, Deloitte and Unilever. The college has established an aspiring apprenticeships programme for year 13 students that includes CV workshops, mentoring, university visits, employer encounters and vacancy-search support.

All schools in the area of the hon. Member for Chesterfield have been part of the careers hub since the start of the academic year, and four out of the nine secondary schools have done careers leader training. That provision will be extended further. Local employers—including KPMG and Dalton HR Solutions—are providing senior business volunteers and enterprise admissions to his local schools.

On improving careers information, another important area of focus is to provide young people with clear and consistent information about the full range of careers options and relevant education and training courses. We established a National Careers Service a decade ago and continue to provide personalised careers information and advice to all aged 13 and over. We are improving the NCS digital offer to allow greater personalisation, but we want to go further. The levelling-up White Paper announced the unit for future skills, which will help to ensure that comprehensive and relevant labour market information and data related to occupations, skills and careers are made available to support effective careers guidance at a national and local level.

I have only a couple minutes left, so I will answer some questions. On improving information in schools about apprenticeships, we already deliver information and outreach work to schools on apprenticeships via the apprenticeship support and knowledge programme. My predecessor wrote to all pupils aged 11 to 13 to promote apprenticeship opportunities, and strengthened provider access legislation to ensure that all pupils have six encounters with different providers, as I said.

On the point about £2 of careers funding per pupil, we are routing investment through the NCS and the CEC so that we can target money where it is most needed to secure better value for money. More than £92 million has been invested in 2022-23.

On the careers strategy, we appointed Sir John Holman as a strategic adviser on careers information, advice and guidance. We will respond to his recommendations in due course, so watch this space.

I am running out of time so will finish by thanking everyone who has taken part in the debate. My hon. Friend Anna Firth spoke about T-levels and the importance of career guidance. My hon. Friend Jerome Mayhew described the opportunity to set up your own business and discussed choice, opportunity and personal responsibility.

The former Department for Work and Pensions Minister, my hon. Friend Mims Davies, is passionate about young people’s education. She touched on the important point of tackling job snobbery. My hon. Friend Mr Walker, the former Minister of State for Education, demonstrated his continued commitment to education by taking part in the debate. Some of his work includes the “Opportunity for all” White Paper, which includes a programme targeting primary schools in 55 education investment areas and adopts benchmarks for good careers guidance. I thank him for his great work on that.

I thank my hon. Friend Jack Lopresti for his commitment to apprenticeships, as a former co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on apprenticeships.

The hon. Member for Chesterfield made some valid points about the importance of work experience. My own work experience during college—I am sure everybody has a couple of horror stories—was with an interior designer. The lady, who worked from home, got me ironing her husband’s underwear. I am sure work experience has improved drastically since then. I can reassure hon. Members that I have had 60 work experience students through my office since I was elected, so I am fully committed to it.

Finally, our mission is to level up opportunity and give every young person the chance to go as far as their talents take them. I am enormously grateful for the support that Members have given on this important issue. We have built the foundations for a career system based on employer engagement, dynamic career leaders and local collaboration, and we encourage the use of evidence for improvement. We will continue to target investment at the changes that make the most difference on the ground, so that every young person in this great country has the chance to reach their full potential.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House
has considered the provision of careers guidance in schools.