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Robert Halfon: careers speech at Westminster Academy

I am delighted to have the opportunity today to talk to you about lifelong careers, which will play a significant part in this government’s industrial strategy.

The Industrial Strategy Green Paper sets out the government’s proposals for delivering a high-skilled, competitive economy that benefits people throughout the country. Developing people’s skills is one of the 10 pillars of the strategy, and high-quality careers advice will play a key part in realising this ambition.

I see careers advice as the first rung on a ladder of opportunity, a ladder that people will continue to climb throughout their lifetime. However, we know that this ladder does not come to us pre-assembled. It is something that needs to be built, grafted over and shaped to reflect our modern requirements. Government’s job is to be there to hold the ladder and help people to climb up.

I strongly believe that the conditions are right to not only transform the nature of careers guidance, but of technical education and apprenticeships, to give everyone the necessary skills and training to open up opportunities and jobs for their futures.

I am excited to have oversight of all of these areas and the chance to bring a greater coherence to them. In particular, locating in one department responsibility for both young people and adults is an exciting opportunity that can bring about a coherent approach to lifelong careers. It allows us to look across the age range – from primary schools right through to retirement.

I also want to root our approach to careers provision firmly at the heart of the government’s focus on social justice, and our desire to make sure that everyone, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to progress in life.

So what works?

Our starting point in creating a careers system that works for everyone is to build on what works. I have seen some excellent examples around the country, including the fantastic work here at Westminster Academy. I was also lucky enough to visit Gateshead College last week, where careers learning is weaved into all aspects of students’ learning.

But these are isolated examples and we need to spread good practice more widely. We have begun to do this by adopting a clear, evidence-based approach to what works, and to ensure support is getting to where it is most needed. The Careers & Enterprise Company has been at the forefront of this approach. £90 million is being invested in careers over this Parliament, which includes further funding to the company. And their work is beginning to have an impact. There are now 80 enterprise coordinators and over 1,300 enterprise advisers working with a third of all secondary schools and colleges across the country. Our goal is for 25,000 young people a year to be benefiting from business mentoring by 2020.

As its network of enterprise advisers and coordinators grows, so will its ability to support schools and colleges in delivering real and lasting change in high-quality careers and enterprise strategies, influenced by strong relationships with employers.

For adults too, the National Careers Service continues to offer free and impartial information, advice and guidance on careers, skills and the labour market, with high rates of satisfaction.

So taking this as our starting point, where do I think we need to go next on careers?

Read full speech here.