Matthew Hancock is Minister for Skills in the Departments of Business and Education, and MP for West Suffolk.
This much we know: there are record jobs in the UK. Youth unemployment has fallen by 118,600 over the last year – at the fastest rate since 1997 – and the number of NEETs has reached record lows. Today, we are setting out our next set of changes we’re making to ensure young people have got what it takes to get the jobs that are increasingly available.
These are part of our wider education reforms, to raise standards for all, to make vocational education more rigorous and responsive to the needs of employers, and to bridge the gap between education and work. It’s part of our long term economic plan. It’s about backing all of our young people – from every background – and unlike Labour, we will back them whether or not they want to go to University.
In fact, we want it to be the new norm that young people go into either an apprenticeship or university – we won’t push you one way or another, but say: it’s your choice. Last week, we set out new accountability rules for schools and colleges, so in future league tables will report not just exam results, important as they are, but also maths and English, and destination: where students end up, whether that be an apprenticeship, university, a job or further study.
Today, we have published new statutory guidance for schools which strengthens their duty to secure inspirational careers advice and mentoring for pupils, to raise expectations and motivate future generation by showing them the full range of career opportunities that are available. It centres on getting real employers, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their own careers, into schools and colleges.
The revised statutory guidance – “Careers guidance and inspiration in schools” – will be effective from September 2014. This guidance sets a clear framework for schools with a clear focus on preparation for work and high ambitions for every student.
I passionately believe that to help young people from all backgrounds to succeed in life, we need to inspire them with a sense of what they can achieve. Every individual deserves to have high expectations set so they can reach their potential, not just those who go on to university. The guidance emphasises the need to provide pupils with a clear view of all options, including apprenticeships alongside university.
There is now no excuse for schools not to engage local employers to support young people in the transition from education to employment. And likewise, we want people in careers they love to step up and go back to school to inspire and mentor pupils, and help young people make the transition to work.
We are also publishing advice with examples of inspiring activities that can be embedded within a clear advice and guidance strategy linked to outcomes for pupils. This will be supported by the National Careers Service, alongside many organisations, like Careers Academies, Speakers for Schools, and others operate across the country and can help to broker relationships between schools and employers.
The guidance sets out clearly how schools will be held to account, confirming Ofsted’s intention to take greater account during school inspections of the quality of careers guidance and of pupils’ destinations. Youth unemployment is falling from the peaks of the Great Recession, but we will not rest until every young person has the chance to fulfil their potential.