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The noble Lord, Lord Baker, referred to the work that he did with Lord Dearing in the past and I again take this opportunity, as I did at Second Reading, to welcome the work that he has been doing and to say how much I support it. It is tremendous that he is promoting what I think the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, called “whatever you call them” colleges, although he referred to them as technical colleges—maybe one day they might become Baker-Dearing colleges. I would very much like to express my support for the work that the noble Lord is doing.

I hope that, with these comments and my commitment to provide the Committee with further and fuller information about the comprehensive programme that we are engaging in to ensure that young people receive comprehensive and independent advice in schools, noble Lords and noble friends will consider not pressing their amendments.

Lord Layard: I am most grateful to the Minister for everything that she has said. It was very reassuring and I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 65 withdrawn.

Amendments 66 to 71 not moved.

Clause 35 agreed.

7.49 pm

Sitting suspended.

8.49 pm

Amendment 72

Moved by Lord De Mauley

72: After Clause 35, insert the following new Clause—

“Careers’ service review

(1) The Secretary of State shall commission a report, to be completed by a person or a body he considers appropriate, on the quality of careers advice and guidance in England and the appropriateness of adopting in England an all-age service as operates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

(2) The report commissioned in subsection (1) shall be submitted to the Secretary of State.

(3) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a copy of the report received under subsection (2).”

Lord De Mauley: In the previous group of amendments we dwelt at length on the need to provide a requirement to include advice about apprenticeships in careers advice, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, spoke to her Amendments 66 and 71. Our Amendment 72 would require the Secretary of State to commission a report on the quality of current careers advice, with further consideration of the appropriateness of establishing an all-age careers service in England similar to those

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in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We currently seem to be struggling to provide our young people with the sort of careers advice that they deserve. While the Government may legislate for a statutory right to an apprenticeship or improvements to examination standards, as we discussed before dinner, this can be undermined by a lack of effective careers advice which would direct our young people to where they would be most suited, to where their potential can be best harnessed.

In schools in England currently around two-thirds of careers advice is delivered by teachers with no formal qualifications in this field. The noble Baroness, Lady Wall, referred to that when she spoke to the previous group of amendments. Outside schools, much of careers advice is provided by Connexions, the external agency which was set up in 2001. While we recognise the valuable service that Connexions offers in giving advice about all manner of problems, ranging from housing to careers to sexual health, we feel that that holistic range of advice may detract from a focus on careers and that the service may therefore be poorer for it. A study by the Skills Commission found that,

Given that the Government declare that their intentions are to help young people achieve their potential, does the Minister not agree that this would be a good time to institute a review of the careers advice that is on offer?

As Keiran Gordon of Merseyside Connexions said before the committee in another place, the Bill does not go far enough to ensure that,

With that in mind, I hope the Minister will see fit to give due consideration to the second half of our amendment, which asks for an assessment of the appropriateness of adopting an all-age service as indeed already operates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Does the Minister agree that particularly in this time of economic crisis, it seems appropriate to have a career service that would allow truly effective and professional advice to be given to people of any age, be they starting work, unemployed, already in work or even while moving towards retirement age? This service would allow people to make truly informed choices. A universally recognised and community-based source of advice would provide reassurance both to those looking for work and those needing employees that they were getting the best service.

We would argue that this professionalised, all-age career service should also link up to the way that advice is given within schools. While we agree with the premise of this part of the Bill which advocates that advice should be given within schools, there is a strong argument that this should not be left up to the discretion of teachers. We spoke about that before the break.

Careers advice can have an enormous impact on the path that a student may take from school and indeed much further into life. We on these Benches would therefore argue that these students should receive the benefit of advice from an independent, dedicated,

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professional resource of a free-standing careers service. My noble friend Lord Elton spoke about the quality of the adviser as well as the advice when he spoke to the previous group of amendments. We do not want to put the onus of the choices that these young people make on to their teachers who, without training in this specific and important field, may push people towards an apprenticeship or towards further academic study based on criteria that are in the best interests not of the pupil but of the school. So I hope very much that the Minister will give serious consideration to these proposals. I beg to move.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: Whereas we of course have some sympathy with the noble Lord’s amendment, our feeling is that, although the Skills Commission approved an all-age career service, now is probably not the time for another review. We would like to see this put into practice rather than see the commissioning of another review, which would mean delays in this careers advice being implemented. On those grounds, we would not entirely support the noble Lord’s proposal.

Baroness Perry of Southwark: I support the amendment. There have been so many changes in the provision of careers services in recent years that it is difficult to keep up with them. My conversations with people in schools indicate that they have the same problem—they are not quite sure where the services are coming from. There is a clear distinction between careers education and careers advice. Both need to be of high quality.

The Connexions service has had its limitations because it was set up very much with the emphasis on the less high achieving young person. It was limited in its capacity. Consequently, a great deal of careers advice was thrown back onto the schools and the careers teachers, many of whom took it on as an act of goodwill, or because the head had caught them at a weak moment—or perhaps because they had no choice, with a rather bossy head. They were unprepared for what they had to do.

It is important to stand back a little and have a look, as this amendment suggests, now that there is a new body in place that is just beginning to come to terms with its duties, at exactly how careers advice operates and what quality is on offer. I should like even to extend it a little and have a look at what has grown up in the mean time: this rather ad hoc provision of careers education in schools, which has had to overlap, so to speak, and become not only careers education but also careers advice for many young people. I very much support what the amendment is trying to do.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: I have listened to the debate with considerable interest, as somebody who is quite new to the Bill. My query concerns the different service that exists in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It seems rather odd that it cannot apply to England.

Lord Elton: I join in merely to support my noble friend in his attempt, and to say that I hope that whoever conducts the review will read carefully the debate that we had immediately before the dinner break.

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Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I thank the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, for moving the amendment and facilitating the debate. Before responding to the amendment, I want to say a couple of things about the Connexions service, because the noble Lord praised its work to begin with. It would be helpful to put on the record some important feedback that we have had about the Connexions service, which provides such an important source of advice to schools and directly to young people.

The Connexions service does an important and good job. We have heard the views of young people and other stakeholders in past surveys, and they have been positive. We have had 28 Ofsted inspections of Connexions partnerships, of which 89 per cent were rated as satisfactory or better, which is encouraging. The 2008 Connexions Direct user survey found that 92 per cent of users reported that they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the service, a slight increase from 89 per cent in 2006; it is clearly going in the direction of further improvement. There were particularly high ratings for ease of use of the internet services, about which the noble Lord was concerned when we discussed this in our previous debate. There were high ratings for the website and the user-friendliness of the advisers. Ninety per cent of those surveyed are likely to use Connexions Direct again. I wanted to inject that into our deliberations now.

9 pm

Amendment 72 calls for an independent review of the quality of careers advice and guidance provision and of the appropriateness of introducing an all-age careers service in England. As noble Lords are aware, we are already putting in place an ambitious set of policies to ensure that young people are provided with information, advice and guidance, and that they develop the skills they need to plan and manage their careers. This is important from the beginning of PSHE careers education, which we all know will be statutory. These policies have been informed by good practice, identified by such key delivery partners as the National College for School Leadership, the Training and Development Agency for Schools and the Learning and Skills Improvement Service. They seek to address what noble Lords have in the past described, perhaps rightly, as the patchiness of current provision, which ranges from excellent to unsatisfactory.

We will also put in place new statutory guidance for schools and local authorities, which will set out improved accountability arrangements for bodies responsible for the provision of information and advice on learning and work. These are key in driving up standards. These further developments will be set out in our forthcoming information, advice and guidance strategy, which will be published later this summer. Since we effectively have a break between Committee and Report, I hope that the noble Lords opposite will be able to have a good look at the strategy. No doubt we will discuss this further. The strategy has been developed in close collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholders. The new Adult Advancement and Careers Service will provide a seamless service, drawing together a full range of advice and support on such issues as jobs, skills, childcare, housing, and financial and personal

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issues to address the broader needs of adults. It will be fully operational in England, as noble Lords are aware, from August 2010.

It is very important that young people are provided with the help that they need to move from services aimed at young people to those for adults. There is no question about that; it is extremely important. We want to ensure that vulnerable young people are protected as they grow older and start to receive support from adult-orientated services. There are strong advantages to that. This calls for strong cross-organisational working between providers of IAG for young people and adults, which puts the individual at the centre of delivery and ensures that the quality of support is maintained as individuals progress from one delivery organisation to another. My department is therefore working closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Work and Pensions to provide closely co-ordinated services for young people and adults that provide individuals with the support that they need through an effective all-age strategy. This will be published in the summer. It will ensure that data-sharing and other arrangements are improved, securing smooth transitions. I hope that will meet some of the noble Lord’s concerns. For example, from autumn 2010, all 19 year-olds will have the choice of using either Connexions services or the Adult Advancement and Careers Service, so there will not be that cliff edge, which I am sure the noble Lord would be concerned about.

We believe that we have in place—or are soon to publish—an effective all-age strategy that will support young people moving between services and provide greater efficiency and value for money. On that basis, I hope the noble Lord will consider withdrawing his amendment.

Lord De Mauley: Is it possible for the Minister to respond to the question asked by the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I apologise to the noble Lord. Of course, I am aware of the provision of services in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In considering the development of our strategy, I said, perhaps not quite as eloquently as I should like, that we are thinking carefully about how to ensure the delivery of a seamless service to people as they go from using a service targeted at young people to one for older people. The effect of that will be to experience the service as if it were an all-age service.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: Will the Minister clarify the position? Is she saying that there is an all-age strategy but that separate services exist at the moment? There is the Connexions Direct service for young people, Jobcentre Plus and all the advisers attached in the all-age, or as she says, the 19-plus service. In spite of having an all-age strategy, the Minister says that she hopes it will be seamless, but it will rely on partnership—on one service working with another.

Perhaps I should declare an interest as a member of the Skills Commission, which came up with some recommendations for the Careers Guidance Service.

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One strong recommendation was that we should work towards providing an all-age service because young people needed advice from people who were actively working in the field, who knew about the jobs they were advising on, rather than it being a separate service.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin:: The noble Baroness is absolutely right. The published strategy will be of great interest to noble Lords. The point that I am trying to make is that we want to ensure that although the wiring behind the service may not be exactly as my colleagues in the Welsh Assembly would define as an all-age service, the experience for the user will be seamless. I am sure that noble Lords will want to look at our strategy and take a view on whether they think it is up to the task. We will happily continue this debate.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: After the Queen’s Speech, perhaps we can have a debate about the Careers Service.

Lord De Mauley: First, I thank my noble friends Lady Perry and Lord Elton for their support, and the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery, for his pertinent question. I also thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Garden and Lady Sharp, for their contributions. The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, says that the time for a review is not now because it might delay matters. I do not think that we agree with that. We on these Benches think that a review is urgently needed.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I want to make it clear to the noble Lord that I am firmly of the view that as we develop policy and go forward, we should not be reticent about reviewing the progress that we make. I am not so convinced whether putting this in the Bill is the right way to go. It is important that policies are reviewed and that we scrutinise and evaluate how effective the approach is. We are not afraid to do that at all.

Lord De Mauley: I am grateful to the Minister. On another point, she said that more information would be forthcoming in the summer. Would it not have been more appropriate if we had had this before our detailed debates on the Bill?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: As always, I hope to be as helpful as I possibly can be. As I said, we will be publishing our strategy very shortly and I shall aim to be as helpful as possible to the noble Lord.

Lord Elton: From that, do I understand that we can be confident that we shall have the report before Report stage and that noble Lords can make Report stage decisions in the light of the report?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: The advice that I have had is that we are publishing our strategy in the summer, and I have no reason to believe otherwise. We have had some very productive debates about careers advice. It is essential that we get this right and I hope very much that the strategy that we are publishing will be welcomed by all those around this Chamber. I look forward to having further discussions about it when I can share it with noble Lords.

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Lord De Mauley: That is a welcome statement by the Minister. I think we would all be grateful if copies of the report could be circulated to all Members of the Committee.

The noble Baroness praised Connexions and acknowledged that I did not detract from that. I simply said—and I think I detected a note of agreement from the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp—that there was a risk that the holistic range of advice on such a broad range of matters might detract from the focus on a subject as important as careers. I have listened to what she has said and I should like to give it more thought. In the circumstances, for this evening I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 72 withdrawn.

Clause 36 agreed.

Clause 37 : Apprenticeship sectors

Amendment 73

Moved by Viscount Eccles

73: Clause 37, page 16, line 33, leave out subsection (2)

Viscount Eccles: We have already had some discussion on Clause 37. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, referred to it right at the beginning of our proceedings and I, for one, am going to read what she said with great care because it seemed to me the best description so far of the way that the first part of the Bill might work.

This clause is another example of control by the Secretary of State—something that has also been mentioned today. It seems to me that the first part of the clause is unexceptional. It simply says:

“The Secretary of State must by order specify sectors of skill, trade or occupation for the purposes of this Chapter”.

For that, he will, as the Minister has told us, rely very much on the sector skills council.

We have had some debate about the number of frameworks that will arise from the system, and I certainly would not want to prolong any kind of discussion as to whether Australia, or indeed Germany, have a better approach than the United Kingdom, although in my own chosen career of engineering the Germans have certainly been much stronger than us. Nevertheless, it behoves the Government, in consultation with the sector skills council, to know something about how many frameworks they expect to arrive at at some point in this process.

The Minister has assured us about employers and has several times used the expression “demand-led”, and I think that that comes through. That is, of course, a very important part of what we are discussing, but I think that we should also remember that, to some extent, we are supply-driven in what we are doing. In quite a number of trades, quite frankly, there will not be enough apprenticeships, although the skills will be needed. One reason for that is the rise of the self-employed, although I do not think that that has been discussed so far in our proceedings. If, for example, you call on a builder to do quite complicated work, you may well find that the majority of the labour force who turn up are not employed by that builder but are

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self-employed and on contract to the builder. In all this, we need to ensure that we do not forget that the variables are extraordinary.

9.15 pm

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