The world of work is changing dramatically. Economic, societal and technological forces are leading to increased global collaboration, agile working and automation.

Matthew Taylor’s report on modern working practices painted a vivid picture of the opportunities and costs associated with these new ways of working and the skills that young people will need to navigate them.

The Government’s Good Work Plan, published in response to his report, has once again focused awareness on the implications for young people and the need to equip them with not just academic results but these core transferable employability skills.

However, latest figures from ONS show that still 790,000 young people (aged 16 to 24) in the UK are not in education, employment or training (NEET) and research continues to show that UK businesses do not feel young people are ready for work when leaving education.

According to recent research from the CBI and Pearson Education, "Helping the UK thrive", 86% of employers consider ‘attitude to work’ the most important factor when recruiting school leavers, compared to only 43% who rated formal qualifications as a top attribute.

Despite this recognition, UK businesses have growing concerns about finding enough people with the right skills, with skills gaps seen by nearly two-thirds as a threat to the UK’s competitiveness. 

As the new Careers Strategy and Ofsted prioritise quality careers advice, having the confidence, resources and, importantly, the time to embed employability teaching into an already packed timetable can be challenging for educators.

Collaboration between businesses and educators

Employers understand the labour market better than anyone. This means they have the power to deliver informed advice to schools and teachers, help to equip students with the right tools, skills and information.

Research also shows that students who interact with employers are less likely to find themselves without employment, education or training. Research undertaken with the Education and Employers Charity found that 9 out of 10 secondary school teachers believe that quality work experience and employer related activities have a direct impact on exam results and are critical to achieving top grades at secondary school.

However, there are a large number of different employability schemes and resources available, not to mention different views on which skills are most important and how to instil them.

Locating the best quality option for their students can still take up valuable time for educators.

National Framework

Therefore, to achieve maximum impact, businesses and educators need support from the Government through a nationwide, consistent approach to employability.

Encouragingly, in their response to the Taylor Review, the Government confirmed that it planned to develop a unified framework of employability skills as part of the technical education reforms.

However, going forward, it is crucial that the need for core transferable skills is defined for the 21st century workplace for all areas of education, not just technical education. 

The Government’s proposed framework has the potential to offer real value to the next generation and provide educators with the support they need to embed the best quality employability education throughout the curriculum. However, more work needs to be done.

Government, businesses and educators need to work together to renew our focus and energy on understanding the needs of young people, educators and employers.

Only then can we truly identify long-term solutions to some of the barriers and challenges we currently face and best prepare today’s young people for the future world of work.

Kirstie Mackey, Head of LifeSkills created with Barclays

About Kirstie Mackey: Kirstie is responsible for driving citizenship throughout Barclays UK, which comprises UK retail banking, consumer credit cards, wealth and business banking.  One key initiative is LifeSkills created with Barclays which she created and launched in 2013.  LifeSkills was launched to bring together teachers, businesses, young people and others to make a significant impact to the challenge of youth unemployment in the UK.  The LifeSkills programme helps give young people the skills they need to move from education to work.  Since launch over 6 million young people in the UK have already participated in the programme.

In addition to citizenship, Kirstie’s brief covers Consumer Affairs – managing Barclays’ engagement with key consumer campaign groups such as Which?, Citizens Advice and Age UK on their priority issues for banking consumers. Through this engagement, she and her team work with colleagues across the bank to define Barclays’ strategy on issues such as financial inclusion, financial difficulty, accessibility and vulnerability customers to deliver tangible change for our customers.

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