A BOY of 11 once told Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle his dream was to become a benefit claimant.
That was the shocking story recounted by Mr Birtwistle during a House of Commons debate this week.
The MP was speaking in response to a motion by shadow Secretary of State for Education Andy Burnham that the Government should act urgently to guarantee face-to-face careers advice for all young people in schools.
Mr Birtwistle said it was important to increase the amount of careers advice for young people, to raise their aspirations and encourage them into work.
“When I was leader of Burnley council three years ago, I went to a junior school to speak to some Year Six pupils, who were about to go on to secondary education,” he said.
“The headmistress had invited a number of prominent people in the town – the Mayor, myself and one or two more – to say what our jobs were.
“After we had told the young people what our jobs were, we asked them what sort of vision they had for their future.
“One little girl said that she was interested in becoming a nursery nurse, as she had some siblings and was keen on looking after them.
“But the shock for me came when one young man said, ‘I want to be a benefit claimant’. That was the aspiration in life of a young man of 11, and he had never been given any different advice.”
Mr Birtwistle said getting businesses involved with Burnley’s secondary schools had helped the situation, but added more needed to be done to encourage them to realise their full potential, in terms of education and employment.
“We have a careers service that has failed the young people of this country for 30 years, and we need to do something about it,” he said.
“We do not need the Government to do everything. We need to get the professionals from industry involved.
“Why do we not invite Sir John Rose, who has retired from Rolls-Royce, to talk to people and advise them about how he would run a careers service?
“He has run Rolls-Royce for donkey’s years and made it very successful.
“I do not think that the Government can do this on their own. People outside government can give better advice than anybody within it.”
Almost a year ago Burnley, along with Aberdeen, was chosen to pilot a re-testing scheme to get more people off benefits and back into work.