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Stephen Twigg: Failure of careers guidance goes to the heart of the government's complacency and economic incompetence

Stephen Twigg, Labour’s shadow education secretary, writes:
Getting young people ready for the world of work is a critical part of our education system and is essential for the long-term future of our economy. With nearly a million young people unemployed, the need for high quality careers advice is more important today than ever.

But today’s report from Ofsted on careers advice shows how the service has been brutally undermined by David Cameron and Michael Gove who are out of touch with the needs of young people and employers.

Three quarters of schools are not providing effective and impartial careers advice, since Michael Gove abolished the independent careers service. This means young people aren’t being told about alternative career routes, like apprenticeships – recent polling found that almost half of young people have never heard of them.
This goes to the heart of this government’s complacency and economic incompetence. Ofsted surveyed 60 schools and found that not enough knew how to provide careers advice and few provided a comprehensive service or external advice. It’s no wonder schools are struggling given the pressures on their budgets.
Of course schools are doing their best to offer a good careers service, but the odds are stacked against them, as today’s Ofsted report makes clear. It’s no wonder, given the pressures on their budgets. Michael Gove has also abolished the right to work experience and shelved the right to face-to-face careers advice, replacing it with a website and phone service called the National Careers Service.
But research last month by Barnardo’s and Ofsted found that hardly any young people are aware of Michael Gove’s careers service. Those that are aware feel it offers “nothing different”.
The sad truth is that David Cameron and Michael Gove are letting young people down. In particular, they have failed to do anything for the forgotten 50 per cent of young people who don’t go to university. These young people are not being offered good careers advice or told about opportunities such as apprenticeships.
Ofsted found that schools are not working well enough with employers to provide students with direct experience of the world of work and vocational training and apprenticeships are not promoted effectively. 
Labour would change this. We would ensure that young people get quality careers advice, which is impartial and independent. This will include advice about vocational and technical routes including high quality apprenticeships.
As well as encouraging more working class students to go to university, we will offer a gold standard vocational qualification for young people to aim for: a Tech Bacc. This will include rigorous vocational courses accredited by employers and a quality work experience placement. And we will ensure all young people study English and Maths to age 18, as we know how important those skills are in the workplace, and in wider life.
Business leaders like the CBI know how important skills are to our economic future, but David Cameron and Michael Gove don’t get it.
Ed Miliband has argued that we need to create a better economy. One that works for working people, not just those at the top. The way we will do that is by skilling up our young people, giving them good advice and getting them ready for the jobs of tomorrow.

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