What Will Theresa May's Legacy Be for Increasing the Employability of Our Young People?

25/07/2016 11:03 | Updated 25 July 2016

The first speech you make as Prime Minister is important - it sets the tone for your premiership and provides the benchmark for commentators to judge your legacy. This was especially important with Theresa May, who hardly had to make her case to the country let alone her party to become our Prime Minister. Brexit has changed the political landscape for generations to come and Theresa May's legacy will be assessed on her ability to deliver what the people voted for and maintain Britain's place in the world economy. May's first speech went against the grain of much of her rhetoric in the Home Office, instead opting for a progressive sounding lunge for the middle ground.

Education, mental health and the 'burning injustices' facing some people in our country were all issues she pledged to fight for. Social justice, mobility and cohesion sat at the heart of her speech not to mention a stab at her former front bench colleagues saying, 'if you're at a state school you're less likely to reach the top professions than if you're educated privately'. In the wake of the decision to leave the EU - focusing on those who feel so detached from the economic fortunes of late and those feeling disenfranchised from the political process will be an important element of bringing the country together. After all, it is these groups that are predicted to suffer most if a recession hits the UK.

As the Chief Executive of careers and work experience charity, Believe in Young People, I will be watching closely to see how Theresa May and Education Secretary, Justine Greening develop their commitments to education, careers and social mobility. Rhetoric is easy but results are hard to deliver. If we take the last government as a case in point. The education minister, Sam Gyimah, promised the Government Careers Strategy in December 2015 'within a few weeks'. Six months on, we're still waiting and another Government statement has been released promising it six months from now.

But why is it needed so much? The business community, public sector and third sector are all playing their part in meeting the Government's apprenticeship target and equally, meeting Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) targets set by DfE. These are all very important - they provide a focus and something to work towards, but this must be contextualised within a strategy that is coherent.

Reassuringly, the level of those 'Not in Education, Employment or Training' (NEETs) has been falling but the new Government needs to show a strong commitment to improving careers advice and guidance in our schools, giving our young people the tools to make decisions about what's best for their futures and begin a successful career path. It is important too that young people have access to meaningful work experience - something Believe in Young People have called on to become mandatory.

Schools have been criticised for their imbalanced approach when offering young people information about their career options and supporting them to get work experience. Too often the work experience is informal and the careers advice on offer is lopsided in favour of those progressing into Higher Education.

It is now mandatory for schools to present balanced information to young people about routes to employment, a move made by Nicky Morgan before her departure from DfE. With all education policy moving to DfE, a new set of ministers and Secretary of State - it is critical the imbalance of careers advice in schools is continually tackled. Equally, the Government, SFA and the Careers and Enterprise Company should work together to deliver and publish the Government Careers Strategy.

Our work seamlessly brings together schools and employers to deliver young people pre-employment programmes as part of the curriculum and meaningful work experience. We want to see the Government creating the environment for an open-dialogue between schools and employers. Only with this, will young people have the opportunities to succeed in roles that suit them.