Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab)
I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship today, Ms Rees, and to follow my parliamentary neighbour, the right hon. Member for Tatton (Esther McVey). We share the second runway of Manchester airport; I could run from my end of it to her end of it, crossing the River Bollin quite smoothly, if they would let me through the security barrier. We should attempt it one day.
I do not want to make too much of a party political point, but I want to say, particularly with my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Stephen Morgan) in his place, how much Labour Members are beginning to take careers really seriously. At our party conference this year, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) pledged to reintroduce two weeks’ worth of compulsory work experience and give every child access to quality careers advice in school. When was the last time a leader of a political party of any colour used their flagship conference speech to talk about the importance of careers education? Indeed, I cannot remember a time when careers education was at the forefront of any keynote speech. It is clearly not a regular occurrence—perhaps once in a blue moon, but I would say that as a Manchester City fan.
Careers education is important to us, particularly for the Opposition, because it is vital for the future of this country, and vital for securing a socially just society. Social justice can be achieved only when we do everything in our power to ensure that our young people can find where their best talents lie and to empower them with the knowledge, skills and understanding to find the route that will help them to realise their potential and aspirations. Evidence shows that high-quality careers education is linked to improved academic attainment, both in academic motivation and in exam results; increased wages; and, after entering the workplace, reduced chances of dropping out and becoming NEET—not in education, employment or training. It creates a better alignment of careers aspirations with the jobs market.
A step change in delivering the best possible careers education for our young people would be ensuring that we do more to inform all our young people about apprenticeships and technical education, which is something about which I am passionate in my constituency. That is why I am encouraged to see the latest report from the Careers & Enterprise Company on trends in careers education, which says that progress is being made in the area. However, clearly, as the report points out, there is more work to be done.
I was shadow Schools Minister for over three years. I had the privilege of visiting many schools all over the country, but I am sure that hon. Members will agree that there is no feeling quite like going back to the school that you attended as a child. I was particularly pleased to visit Saint Paul’s Catholic High School, in my constituency, where I went to school, to see how it was using careers education to drive whole-school improvement. The school comes out as the poorest in England year on year, as it did when I attended it in the 1980s. I was inspired by how the school had embraced and embedded the role of a careers leader to drive forward its careers programme, and by how its career strategy was being supported by a senior volunteer from the world of business—at that time it was Jaguar Land Rover. It was making a real difference. This year, the school has also joined its local careers hub, which has been accelerating the quality of careers education across Greater Manchester, which includes my constituency.
During the visit, I had a chance to talk to year 8 pupils about my career, which ranges from digging roads as a labourer to selling tickets on a zero-hours contract at Maine Road—as a Manchester City fan, it was the lowest-paid, highest-status job I have ever had. I now have a quite well-paid job, but I will let Members in the room decide what they think its status is. The point that I wanted to drive home, however, was the number of options they have available right on their doorstep. As the right hon. Member for Tatton knows, we are fortunate that we have Manchester airport in our constituencies. I was able to unpack all the types of roles one could do at the airport alone. I was also able to name-check opportunities at local employers such as Chiesi, a pharmaceutical group; The Hut Group; Cardinal Maritime, a logistics company; and Broderick’s, a huge vending business, with lads I went to school with. The point is that there are many options.
It is vital that we link local employers to schools and colleges, and ensure that young people have the best chance of finding the best route possible for them. Every year, I host an International Women’s Day event where I invite young women to meet female business professionals in Wythenshawe and Sale East, so that they can meet people just like them, and find out how to get a foot on the ladder. They also make valuable links to those businesses, so when work experience or apprenticeship time arrives, they are confident in applying. It is one of the most rewarding parts of my role as a constituency MP.
I want kids in Wythenshawe and Sale East to know that behind the warehouse doors on the industrial estates in my constituency we have tech jobs, marketing jobs, legal and financial roles, research and development, engineering—the list is endless. I want those kids to have aspirations to take on those roles, and not just become a Member of Parliament. Owing to the work that has been done in my constituency in recent years, we are in a better position to deliver those aspirations for our young people than we have been for a long time. There is a long way to go, but I am pleased that my party, particularly, is stepping up locally and nationally at the moment on this vital agenda.