I grew up in working class Kidderminster and am now in the House of Lords. I haven’t the first idea how this came to pass but I guess social mobility must be in it somewhere.
It was that and more which made me delighted to be part of the select committee on social mobility, our report is published today.
Our report focusses not on those on the A-level University pathway, nor on the NEETs, both groups pretty well served, from policy, think tanks and successive Governments at least. No, our focus was the large group in between, those who we found suffering incoherent options, chaos and confusion. Those who we concluded were experiencing a terrible muddle in the middle.
We wanted to be sure that our recommendations wouldn’t add to the policy fragmentation which has hindered progress and clarity. Instead we recommend a cohesive system: a core curriculum for those aged 14 –19, with tailor made academic or vocational elements, a gold standard in careers advice, and careers education in schools that empowers young people to make good decisions about their future.
This system needs to be underpinned by reliable and publicly available data. It needs to be properly funded, owned by a single Minister, and monitored for success. Only by taking these actions can we make sure that all of our young people have the best chances of success.
We also need to see an end to the inequality between university and other routes, inequality in terms of funding, inequality in terms of thinking.
What is perhaps most pressing though for policy makers and frankly, for us all is the revolution currently underway which will leave our labour market changed beyond recognition, most pertinent here, so many of those jobs which were the enablers of social mobility from the sixties onwards, those jobs, swept away on a tide of turmoil and tech.
In the UK 35% of jobs are in danger of automation, by the same token, over one million new jobs required in the digital sector by the end of this decade alone. What these new opportunities will require is far more focus on skills rather than subjects and resilience rather than rote learn.
What we need is focus, on the individual. What services and support, can be wrapped around them, not least careers education and guidance, character education, communication skills, team working, self-management and self belief to name just some.
As communities, as a country, we can no longer continue to tolerate this lack of focus on such a large group of our young people, this waste, this wanting. We need to smash the silos; between Government departments, between different routes, silos of thinking, silos that stifle, silos that stunt. The silos must be smashed, individual’s purpose must be pushed to the fore and then, then we can unleash the talent.