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Clegg aims to boost careers advice
Nick Clegg has unveiled new proposals to help young people into the workplace as he warned that for many teenagers, careers advice is still a "tick box exercise squeezed into a lunchtime break".
The measures include a Ucas-style system for vocational qualifications, tougher requirements on schools to offer decent careers guidance to pupils and access to Jobcentres from age 16.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader announced the plans in a speech to around 500 young people at Southfields Academy, south London, citing a recent Ofsted study which found just one in five schools were giving all of their pupils detailed career support.
The proposals - which Mr Clegg said will help stop young people becoming a "Neet" (not in education, employment or training) - were welcomed by business leaders.
"For a lot of the young people I meet, careers guidance currently feels like a tick box exercise squeezed into lunchtime break with a busy teacher, who no doubt already has a lot on their plate," Mr Clegg says.
"So, we are issuing new guidance for schools, in the next few weeks, that will set out just what good careers advice should look like. And not take-it-or-leave-it guidance. To make sure it's being followed, Ofsted will be looking more closely at the quality of careers advice and support available when they inspect schools."
One of the "most important" changes will be a new responsibility on schools to develop links with local employers, he added.
Mr Clegg announced plans to create a Ucas-style system for those young people who do not want to study for a degree.
"A t the moment, if you want to go to university, all the information you could ever need about how to do that is available to you via the Ucas website," he said.
"You can research different universities and courses, check what A-level subjects and grades you need to get in and, of course, submit and check your application. That doesn't happen if you want to do some other kind of training.
"So at 16, when a lot of you are having to choose whether you go to college, do an apprenticeship or train for a particular trade or occupation, we think it's only right that you get the same guidance and support as those going to university."
Teenagers will be able to apply for their preferred course through the site, and local councils will be responsible for making sure it carries up to date information.
"Ultimately, I want to see this process become a rite of passage for every 16-year-old: helping you to make an active choice about your future and set out a clear plan for the road ahead," Mr Clegg said.
He also announced that in future, young people will be able to gain help at Jobcentres from age 16, with around 3,000 16 and 17-year-olds taking part in pilot projects.
Young people without English and maths qualifications going to Jobcentres will be offered help in these subjects - and could lose benefits if they refuse it.
He said: "W e're also going to increase the support available to 18 to 21-year-olds looking for work. From this autumn, we'll be running pilots with 15,000 young jobseekers.
"From day one of signing up for unemployment benefit, these young people will need to show they have those maths and English qualifications that every job demands. If they don't, their adviser will get them on that training immediately to ensure that if you're not earning, you're still learning."
Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills policy, said: "The CBI has long called for a Ucas-style system for vocational qualifications.
"This is a major step forward in making vocational routes more visible and will help put it on a level footing with more traditional academic routes.
"Supporting 16 and 17-year-olds through Jobcentre Plus to break into the world of work is overdue. With too many young people still unemployed, Jobcentres will need to hit the ground running and tailor help to meet the needs of the local economy."
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said Mr Clegg was right to address the issue of careers advice.
"The idea of an alternative Ucas is interesting and could be very helpful. However, putting the responsibility on local authorities seems the wrong way to go about it. The National Apprenticeships Service already has a national database of all apprenticeships, listed by region.
"It would seem more logical to expand this and make use of existing organisations like the National Careers Service and Local Enterprise Partnerships.
"There is still the issue that there are not enough opportunities for young people to access. Local authorities are not going to be able to materialise vacancies to put on the online shop. Youth unemployment is not simply a result of young people not knowing about the opportunities, but also that not enough opportunities exist, in particular apprenticeships."
Tim Thomas, head of employment policy at EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, said: "With manufacturers facing acute skills shortages, the challenge has been ensuring that young people have the fundamental skills and experience the industry needs, and raising awareness of the many opportunities within the sector.
"Today, manufacturers will be relieved that the Deputy Prime Minister has focused on the key areas EEF has long campaigned upon - the need for clearer careers provision, a focus on English and maths, and a Ucas-style system for vocational pathways."
Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS said: "We have already developed a 'UCAS-style' web service for 16-year-olds. It's called UCAS Progress and helps teenagers make the right choices after GCSEs - whether that is an A-level in maths, a BTEC in business or a plumbing apprenticeship. This year some 600,000 young people are using the site.
"We will be delivering a more comprehensive national service from autumn this year. This will include information and careers advice and the ability to search and apply for courses right across the country. It will be free to use for all learners."