When I first became minister of state for skills and apprenticeships, I heard all too often that careers education and guidance was not reaching all those young people most in need of it.
Despite the good intentions and hard work of many, careers provision was patchy and too reliant on a chance encounter or a well-connected parent.
But what if you are from a family without these connections? What if you are from a disadvantaged community and do not have access to a wide range of opportunities?
That is why I was delighted to publish the careers strategy in 2017, which sets out our ambitions for a world-class careers system. Our aim is to create a thriving careers system. One that helps people to make the most of their skills and talents.
I want all young people to hear about the wide range of opportunities open to them, whether that be doing an apprenticeship, A levels or, from 2020, the new T levels, and whether they be employed as an apprentice or are studying at college or university.
The good news is that things are already changing for the better, especially in disadvantaged areas.
When the government set up the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) in 2015, we asked it to strengthen those all-important connections between education and business. Encounters with employers and understanding the world of work helps young people make the right choices that will work for them.
Since then, the CEC has shown that there is an abundance of goodwill that employers have to offer, especially in places of disadvantage such as the 12 opportunity areas.
These can be large national employers like Aviva and KPMG in Norwich, or smaller local employers in Hastings, such as manufacturing firm Marshall Tufflex and their brilliant apprenticeship programme.
These are just a few of the thousands of employers in more disadvantaged areas that are providing not just their own time and resources but also galvanising other businesses in their community.
These employers are helping young people to see the opportunities around them and prepare them for their future jobs.
The careers strategy sets secondary schools and colleges the task of meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks, the gold standard for careers guidance.
This includes making sure that the careers provision that students get is based on up-to-date information about the local labour market. For example, in my constituency, some of the biggest local employers are the hospital and the university.
Good careers advice includes making sure that students understand across all their curriculum subjects how what they are being taught is relevant to the future jobs they might have.
And it includes making sure that students have a personal guidance interview from a qualified careers professional.
By expanding the remit of the CEC, we are helping schools and colleges to deliver on all of the Gatsby Benchmarks.
£4m has been targeted at schools and colleges serving disadvantaged communities or supporting disadvantaged groups of pupils, like those in care or those with special educational needs or disabilities. An estimated 200,000 young people will directly benefit as a result.
And so, 16 months into the strategy, what effect is it having?
Now, when I visit schools and colleges, there is a real buzz of excitement about careers. More than 3,000 schools and colleges have filled in Compass, our online tool that helps schools and colleges to measure their own progress towards the Gatsby benchmarks.
And these schools and colleges are reporting improvements on all dimensions of careers education. Ofsted has also said it is seeing improvement.
The real breakthrough is the faster progress in schools and colleges serving disadvantaged communities, including coastal towns.
Over the next 12 months, we will build on the momentum behind the careers strategy. The first 20 careers hubs are already doing better than the national average. And through the CEC, we are investing in the frontline to train 1,300 careers leaders in schools and colleges across England in this important role.
Ultimately, our measure of success is clear. We want all young people to get a good job, get into the right course and get the right training whatever their age, ability or background.
We know from our recent research that children are forming stereotypes at the age of seven. We also know that they are abandoning their aspirational careers between the ages of nine and thirteen.