I am passionate about the need for education and business to work together to help young people successfully enter the workplace. I was, therefore, pleased to see the Federation of Small Business (FSB) Chairman, John Allan, calling for the 'business and education community to collaborate more closely to prepare young people for the world of work', in The Guardian last week.
Allan was responding to the latest FSB Small Business Index which shows almost a third of employers believe skills shortages are hampering business growth. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the construction industry where a fifth of vacancies are hard to fill. And it's a similar story for engineering: Engineering UK reports engineering companies will need 1.86million new recruits by 2020 – that's double the current number of engineering graduates.
With this ringing in my ears, I'm excited to announce the City & Guilds TechBac® arrives in six pioneer centres today. The TechBac® is a new vocational curriculum, designed in partnership with employers and experts from the further education sector, to give 14 to 19 year olds an exciting alternative path towards an apprenticeship, higher education or employment. We believe this brand new curriculum will bridge the gap between education and employment, and provide work-ready young people with the technical, professional and personal skills that businesses want.
According to our research, only a third (35%) of employers believe today's qualifications adequately prepare young people for work, with many lacking vital technical and professional skills and work experience . We've worked with leading employers, like IBM, Laing O'Rourke and BOSCH, to develop and endorse the technical qualifications that sit at the heart of the TechBac® to ensure they deliver the skills businesses need.
We've focused our efforts on creating TechBac® curriculums in the sectors with the biggest skills gaps and the biggest potential for growth and our partnership with the New Engineering Foundation (NEF) will improve the quality of vocational education for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. NEF's technical expertise and extensive network of industry partners is helping us to deliver TechBac® programmes in engineering and digital technologies that will create opportunities for young people in these exciting growth sectors. This year we are also launching TechBac® programmes in construction, land and early years education and will be adding more industries as we develop the programme.
We've spoken extensively to employers to uncover the professional and personal skills they believe are missing in today's job seekers. Most employers prioritise attitude above technical knowledge, so the TechBac® rewards the development of skills like communication, enterprise and self-development.
It is this collaborative approach we believe will allow the TechBac® to deliver what employers need. Businesses agree with this, with the majority of employers (54%) feeling there is a need for them to be more involved in developing qualifications to ensure they meet the needs of business.
Another strong focus for the TechBac® is providing lots of opportunities for employer interaction. With the Government's seemingly never-ending focus on academic achievement and exam results, young people often tell us they don't get the chance to talk to employers and find out about the industry they want to enter or experience what it's like to have a job. This is madness when over three quarters (77%) of employers tell us work experience makes young people more employable.
The TechBac® includes an extensive work placement which allows candidates to show potential employers how they would perform in a work environment and find out for themselves what it takes to succeed. We've also developed an online mentoring programme in partnership with Brightside - a charity passionate about opening educational pathways for young people. This programme connects TechBac® students with an industry expert who can help support and motivate them throughout their course and offer practical advice to help them find a job.
Young people who successfully complete the TechBac® will provide a signal to businesses that they are work ready. I believe this new curriculum has the potential to change education for the better, and improve employment opportunities for young people across the UK.
Kirstie Donnelly is UK managing director of City & Guilds Group, a global leader in skills development
To find out more visit www.techbac.com