Sam Gyimah on the importance of businesses getting involved in school careers services, at the launch of the Enterprise Adviser programme.
Thank you for that very kind introduction, Christine [Hodgson, Chair of the Careers and Enterprise Company].
It’s a great pleasure to be here today at the launch of this brand new programme connecting schools and employers, and young people and careers. Only this morning, I was lucky enough to visit Baylis Court School in Slough which already has a very successful careers education programme - the highlight of this visit was when a sixth-form pupil asked how she could get my job!
For too long the careers provision in schools has not been taken as seriously as it should be - instead, treated with disdain, as a kind of relic from the days before the internet put the whole world at our fingertips.
I’m sure plenty of people here have heard anecdotes about careers services in schools before - I certainly have.
Teenagers’ futures being reduced to a 20-question online quiz, a one-off meeting with a careers adviser in year 11 that feels more like a chore than an opportunity - in other words, a total lack of practical advice and personal support.
Tales of bad advice like these are all too common. I read an article just the other day about a famous comedian who told his careers adviser he liked canoeing, and was told he should join the navy
When you couple that with that the fact that an Ofsted study found that only 1 in 5 schools gives effective guidance and advice to its year 9, 10 and 11 pupils, it’s no wonder that 80% of employers think that young people don’t leave school equipped with the right skills for the workplace.
Imagine trying to study for your GCSEs, A levels or even your degree without having any idea about what your future might hold, and with no idea how the qualifications you’re working towards can shape and influence the rest of your life.
During this tricky phase of life, young people desperately need sensible, practical advice and guidance.
But I also know that good careers provision is about so much more than directing people into specific jobs.
It’s about providing that initial spark of enthusiasm and inspiring pupils to broaden their horizons - to think about the world outside the school gates.
After all, how can we tell a 13-year-old exactly what they should be doing by the time they’re 30 when we don’t even know what jobs will exist then?
Ten years ago, we didn’t know what a mobile app developer was. But now, coders are a hot commodity, working in some of the most high-profile and creative industries in the market.
What young people really need today are the building blocks to help them navigate a jobs market which is changing at a more rapid pace than ever before.
From the simple things that you or I might take for granted - a professional-sounding email address, to dressing smartly for an interview, to writing a great CV - all of these are vital components of good careers provision.
We’ve all seen embarrassing email addresses, or spelling mistakes in a job application, and I’m sure many young people have holiday snaps that they wouldn’t want their potential bosses to see if they looked at their Facebook profile - it’s all too easy to fall at this first hurdle if young people don’t have the right kind of support!
I do, however, know that many organisations across the country are working tirelessly to make sure that young people have equal access to this kind of provision at all points of their school journey.
I know that careers advisers are dedicated professionals who genuinely want young people to progress onto the best courses and into the best job.
Plenty of employers already work hard to target and support young people in their area.
And organisations like the National Citizenship Service are helping older teenagers build vital skills like leadership, teamwork and communication.
But I want this to be done consistently.
I want a strategic approach that brings all of these people and organisations together so that every single child, no matter where they live or what school they go to, has the same access to top-quality advice. That’s what this ‘one nation’ government is all about - spreading educational excellence everywhere and making sure that every young person across the country can unlock every ounce of their potential.
Because, as Christine has said previously, there’s currently too much variation across the country. Some schools benefit from a steady stream of professionals coming in to inspire their pupils, but others aren’t lucky enough to have access to these opportunities. And often, it’s pupils at these schools, in disadvantaged areas, who’d benefit most from an extra insight into the world of work.
Increasing aspirations, improving social mobility and giving everyone an equal chance at a good life can only be a good thing for the continued productivity and economic strength of our country. Outstanding careers provision has to be at the heart of this plan.
So, finally, when I think about this careers provision, and how the Careers and Enterprise Company can add the most value, I think about the importance of making the right links.
The importance of connecting employers to schools and young people, connecting schools with the best support and careers provision there is, and connecting young people’s presents to their futures.
Helping them see the value and relevance of high attainment, good behaviour and regular school attendance.
Giving them an insight into the exciting paths their careers could follow.
Fuelling their passions and their drive to succeed.
Perhaps, most importantly, teaching them the rules of the game. As I said earlier, how to choose the right career, how to apply for the right job, how to impress in the professional world.
Because I’ve never met a single young person who wants to end up unqualified and under-employed - and yet one young person not in education, employment or training, wasting their abilities and aspirations, is one too many.
So if we’re going to get careers advice right, if we’re going to harness the talent of the next generation and help young people make sensible choices about their future education and employment, we all need to raise our game.
Over the coming months, I want to see the Careers and Enterprise Company go from strength to strength, spreading what works to all schools and colleges, filling gaps and making it much, much easier for schools, employers, and careers and enterprise providers to connect.
Putting the experts in the classrooms, the people that understand business, and careers opportunities in the local area and beyond.
In turn, I want to see all of those companies who have said time and time again that school leavers don’t have the right skills for the workplace step up and help to solve that problem.
Of course, some companies are thinking about this already, but many more can consider offering work experience placements, sending staff into schools, mentoring pupils - there are so many ways to help bridge the gap between education and employment.
I’ll leave you now to hear more from Claudia (Harris, CEO of the Careers and Enterprise company) on the Enterprise Adviser programme, but before I do, I want to thank all of you for all of your work so far. I’m confident I’ll soon be hearing great things and glowing reports as schools and pupils start to benefit from this new service.