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Graduates and Work Experience

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL14544, tabled on 23 March 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with universities regarding (1) the technical skills, and (2) the employability, of graduates; and what steps they are taking to increase practical work experience opportunities for young people.

Answered on

8 April 2021

Since the announcement of our Higher Technical Education reforms in July 2020, we have engaged with a number of universities. Whilst we want to see further education colleges expanding their higher technical provision, we also want universities to offer more higher technical qualifications or apprenticeships, which are a more focused and better targeted route for students, employers, and the economy.

Many universities are already delivering higher, level 6 plus, and degree apprenticeships. We regularly engage with the higher education sector, including via higher education provider representative bodies, to encourage more universities to work with employers to deliver apprenticeship training wherever there is employer need.

We recognise that a number of education leavers will face challenges gaining employment due to the ongoing adverse impact on the UK labour market and economy of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government is doing all it can to help people who are at the start of their career journey. The Department for Work and Pensions has successfully recruited over 13,500 new work coaches by end of March 2021. This will ensure that high quality work search support is available to those who need it. The Office for Students’ Local Graduates competition has awarded £5.6 million to 16 projects across England to help graduates into local employment opportunities.

As part of the government’s Skills Recovery package plan for jobs announced on 8 July 2020, we are investing an additional £32 million in the National Careers Service up to March 2022. This investment will provide individual careers advice for 269,000 more people whose jobs or learning have been affected by COVID-19.

The Skills Toolkit has free courses to help graduates to learn new skills, including general skills that apply to all sectors and more specialised skills. In September 2020 we added additional courses to The Skills Toolkit with new content including a range of courses to develop ‘work readiness’ skills that employers report they value in their new recruits.

The Department for Education is working with Universities UK, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, the Institute of Student Employers, the Office for Students, and the sector to understand what more we can do to support graduates who are looking to enter the labour market or continue their studies at this challenging time. The Office for Students’ Local Graduates competition has awarded £5.6 million to 16 projects across England to help local graduates into local employment opportunities.

Work experience is important for getting into any career. The careers statutory guidance makes it clear that schools should offer work placements, work experience and other employer-based activities as part of their careers strategy for year 8-13 pupils and that secondary schools should offer every young person at least seven encounters with employers during their education.

We are providing valuable support to schools and colleges to provide work experience through The Careers and Enterprise Company, which has been given the task of increasing access to work experience for young people. Guidance around work experience can also be found on the National Careers Service website.