Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Bill

I congratulate my hon. Friend
the Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson), first on coming top in the private Member’s Bill ballot and secondly on choosing this particular Bill. I do not think that any proposal would have been more worthy of consideration by the House.

In Dudley South we have many very good academy schools, just as we have many very good local authority maintained schools. Many of the academy schools use the greater freedoms they have to establish a strong ethos and character, but I struggle to fathom what it is in the governance and funding mechanisms of academy schools, excellent as they are, that means that the pupils who attend them are somehow less in need of careers guidance than those who attend maintained schools. The truth is that all young people need guidance on their future careers, and, as many Members have said today, that need continues throughout their working lives.

I think that, as people in a line of work in which jobs are not always entirely secure, many of us can identify with the idea that people’s career options can change throughout their working lives. Indeed, I think that the Boundary Commission is prompting me to look towards some careers advice in the not too distant future. The Whips Office are frequently generous with their careers advice, often in very direct and unambiguous terms, although I fear that not all of it may be parliamentary.

However, I think that the really important aspect of the Bill is not so much the requirement to have careers advice as the independent nature of that advice, and its guaranteed standard. It needs to have value—greater value, I think, than some of the careers advice that was available when I was at school 30 years ago. My hon. Friend
the Member for Clwyd South (Simon Baynes) suggested that the position was similar when he was at school. That advice was probably not as helpful, because it was often provided in-house by teachers who were extremely good at their subjects, but whose understanding of the jobs market and the economy, which had developed since they were at teacher training college, was quite restricted. Their careers advice was generally focused on graduate-focused roles rather than other career paths.

We need an independent, dedicated and extremely skilled careers service to be available to all young people. What is needed is an up-to-date understanding of the jobs market. As my right hon. Friend
the Member for Tatton (Esther McVey) observed, there are so many jobs of the future that do not even exist yet, so those who are advising young people on forward pathways need to understand the jobs market both as it is today and as it is likely to develop in the near future. They also need to understand the full breadth of the economy and the jobs market, and how that has progressed. For people of my parents’ generation, the whole point of a good education was working hard at school so that you did not end up in the factory, whereas the reality now is that many engineering roles, many technical and vocational careers, have rather better prospects than many of the jobs that would typically be taken by graduates.

We need to ensure that the careers service appreciates the value of sectors that may not have been given the status they deserved but have always been important. My hon. Friend
the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) mentioned the hospitality sector as an example, but there are many, many others, including the technical skills sector and the care sector. We have a wide range of opportunities in our modern economy.

Young people today find themselves in an increasingly complex world. As they leave school, they will be entering an ever-changing jobs market. It has never been more important to have good, high-quality, reliable careers advice, and that applies regardless of the type of school that a child is attending, and I am glad that this Bill will help to guarantee that.