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Boost schools careers advice: MP
A Lib Dem MP said careers advice being given in schools was 'minimal'
The Government must invest in adequate careers advice for school children if Britain is to meet its workforce needs, an MP has warned.
Gordon Birtwistle, Liberal Democrat MP for Burnley, said that current careers advice at schools was minimal, as it was carried out by people who do not have much experience beyond the academic world. Speaking during a backbench debate in the Commons, he said: "What careers advice is being offered in our schools?
"Well, I would suggest it's minimal. It's minimal because most of the people giving careers advice have only ever been teachers. Unfortunately, they haven't been in the workplace and there are jobs in Burnley they didn't even know existed." He added: "Unfortunately, at the moment, the advice being offered to young people is from a very narrow band in school, and parents at home, and there is far more in this world than what those people know."
He acknowledged that a time of austerity and departmental cutbacks increased spending would be a difficult sell, however, he suggested to do otherwise would be a false economy.
"I agree with the Government: we have to chop back on revenue spending, we have to cut back on the deficit. But this is investment spending. We have to invest in the young people of the future and If it's going to cost a little bit to invest in these young people, we will get a return for year, after year, after year.
"So basically we cannot afford not to do this, we have to afford to do it or else we are going to have young people out of work and industries bereft of quality staff," he said.
Labour shadow education minister Tristram Hunt said his party acknowledged there was no additional funding available. But highlighting work by Alan Milburn, a former Labour cabinet minister and advisor to David Cameron, he said: "He dedicated his career to improving careers services, raising aspirations and increasing social mobility.
"Yet only this weekend he criticised the Government's half hearted and incoherent approach in this area. I don't get the sense this is sufficiently part of the DNA of what this Government is about... we are facing exactly the same kind of skills shortage and unbalanced economy that we were warned of."
But education minister Liz Truss defended the Government's record, telling MPs: "Schools do have a strong incentive to deliver, I don't think there was a golden era of careers advice - in fact Alan Milburn admitted 'throughout our work we have barely heard a good word about the careers work of the current Connections service'.
"That's a service provided under the previous government. What we have done now, introducing a national careers service... given schools a very strong role so they can help students not just with aspirations but also with critical things like subject choice. And the minister for schools (David Laws) has said we are going to also look at Ofsted's thematic review of careers to make any changes we do have to make because our aspiration is every student in this country uses their talents to the maximum and has strong aspirations for the future."
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