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We need to move schools and employers closer together to help combat youth unemployment

As we celebrate National Apprenticeships Week (11-15 March), we are offered a timely reminder that both young people and employers are passionate about the extent to which Apprenticeships can help reduce youth unemployment.

UK youth unemployment is widely recognised as one of the most pressing economic challenges. Announcements already made this week by the Prime Minister, the Mayor of London and some of the country’s leading employers back up the thought that Apprenticeships are a valued route to a good career.

But our new report suggests that these messages aren’t being fed down to the people that matter – the young people, who without quality careers advice, will add to the 974,000 16 to 24-year-olds currently out of work.

We surveyed young people, parents, teachers, governors and employers for our ‘Finding a Future’ report and found that just 14% of young unemployed people were told about vocational training, including Apprenticeships, at school.

And over half the young people we surveyed said they received careers advice less than once a year and only 9% received regular guidance. Four out of five of them also said that they felt they left school ill-equipped to find a job.

We welcome the expansion of higher education in recent decades, and the more recent launch by this government of Traineeships but [Young people have been let down by careers advice services for too long. We need this to change and place employability at the heart of our education system, preparing young people for working life

Concerns have also been expressed by employers who want to be able to form closer links to schools and indicated that their local schools are not committed to engaging in meaningful relationships with schools. They – and indeed parents – hold the overwhelming opinion that there is a tendency to focus on academic pathways at the expense of vocational routes, discouraging young people from exploring alternative options that might better enable them to secure employment in the future.

The new obligation on schools and colleges – rather than Local Authorities ­– to provide independent, information, advice and guidance should act as a catalyst to recalibrate how schools and employers interact, with the support of local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and specialist employment services.

There needs to be a commitment from both educators and policy makers to address the problems in careers services to young people. Up to date, local labour market intelligence should be fed into schools through the National Careers Service and the quality of careers advice must be measured to ensure we tackle this problem. We’d like to see Ofsted charged with including assessments of this advice and guidance in its reports.

Over the last two years, we have commissioned and published research on the role of Apprenticeships in addressing youth unemployment, the role of corporate responsibility in recruitment and the importance of career progression to create lasting jobs. We are pleased that some of the recommendations we have made have shaped government thinking. We hope this latest report will do the same.

We’re calling for careers advice and employability to be embedded into the curriculum and for each and every school to have one person from the business world placed on its Board of Governors. This way we can move the worlds of education and work closer together to give our young people a chance of not becoming just another number and prepare them for working life.

Above all, young people must hear the full range of options available to them. Advice for young people must include a comprehensive explanation of both the academic and vocational opportunities available. The newly-formed National Careers Service has a massive part to play. We recommend it establishes an online brokerage system to link schools, colleges and employers, and for it to collate and share data on the needs of the local labour markets.

Will Cookson is skills manager at Working Links, which provides advice, guidance, access to training and supports people seeking work

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