From education to employment

Young people today

Rob Wye is chief executive of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service

What a changing and challenging world our young people are facing!

This was brought home in sharp focus recently after I spent a day interviewing applicants for a new apprenticeship role in the Chief Executive’s Office. At LSIS we always seek to practice what we preach, so we are doubling the number of apprentices we employ to one in ten of our staff.

The achievements to date, the positive attitudes, the work experience, and the enthusiasm of all those I met put the lie to any negative clichés about “young people today”. Britain’s got talent – we just need to recognise it and celebrate it more.

Our young people are well aware of the uncertain future they face: the troubles in the economy, the pace of technology, the demographic changes that will impact on their lives – and their future pensions –  and the global challenges the world will face in their lifetimes – social, ecological, political.

These factors all make for a world in which it is very hard for them to know which route is best to travel, especially when the choices available in education and training are many and varied.

While the ‘royal road’ may still be mapped by some through the academic route of A-levels and University – many young people, and indeed their parents, are not so sure.

And this is where as a sector we can be instrumental in informing their choices, increasing their opportunities and improving their prospects.

Do they want to incur those levels of debt?  Would they be better off getting a job and getting good training through an apprenticeship which itself could lead on later to higher level qualifications? Already one in eight of the advanced apprentices in this country go on to higher education, and this number will rise.

Others may well best be served through full time vocational provision at college or with another provider before they seek employment.  This is the preferred choice of very many of our young people, and one that deserves greater credit and promotion.

Some young people are not yet ready to go to work; some want to gain the technical or practical skills they need before they go into the labour market, and of course as youth unemployment has now reached a million, in many parts of the country the jobs may just not be available.

Whichever route they choose, we do need to ensure our young people have the chance to gain not just the underpinning English and Maths skills which make such a difference to future progression, but also the other skills and attitudes employers will be looking for – team work, problem solving, enthusiasm, enterprise – and what an American employer once told me she always looked for  – “gettin’ up in the mornin’ and dressin’ right”!

As we recruit all our new apprentices at LSIS I have no doubt we will find the right applicants with the right skills and attitudes.  And speaking more generally, I am clear that our young people are our future – and in the light of what I have seen recently, our future is in good hands…

Rob Wye is chief executive of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, which aims to accelerate the drive for excellence in the learning and skills sector

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