From education to employment

Colleges and employers must work together to prepare students for the workplace

Bad management is already an issue in the UK, with only 1 in 5 managers having a professional management qualification, but we can’t let this become a pattern defining future business generations. Colleges have a key role to play in breaking this cycle by working with employers to help give their students the skills they need to succeed in the workplace. This is how students will learn to lead and the UK can develop the leadership skills needed to make Britain competitive.

CMI has just released the ‘Tomorrow’s Leaders’ report which revealed that nine out of ten managers feel that young people often need training in basic skills when they enter the world of work. Worryingly, they feel that the situation has worsened in the last decade, with just 9% agreeing that young people leaving education today are more employable than their counterparts ten years ago. Particular areas of concern are school leavers’ management skills, indentified as poor or very poor by 77% of managers; commercial awareness, which 70% viewed as poor or very poor; and communications skills, viewed as poor or very poor by 51%.

The research also highlighted employers’ calls for change in the way these important skills are developed. Some 82% of managers agree that giving young people the skills they need at work should be the top priority for the education system. However, just 20% feel that the current system develops them to a satisfactory level. Nevertheless, employers are keen to get involved to change this situation, with over nine out of ten agreeing that employers have a duty to develop the skills of young employees. What’s more, over half believed that involving businesses in the education process would do most to improve young people’s employability.

To answer employers’ calls and help to address this issue, the Chartered Management Institute has been piloting a programme called Campus CMI, offering young people aged 14-21 qualifications in team leading and line management in schools and FE colleges across the UK through its key delivery partner, StudyFlex.

Having delivered 1,500 CMI qualifications in 115 schools and colleges across England already, the programme is now officially launching, with take up set to increase to approximately 3,000 in 300 schools and colleges by the end of 2011. We then intend to widen the programme to deliver 10,000 qualifications within 5 years.

To ensure that the qualification delivery is answering employers’ concerns, Campus CMI is led by a board of employers including Centrica, Waitrose and The National Grid. It also focuses on the practical, workplace skills – such as building work relationships or organising information – that employers want to see from young people.

A number of colleges that are piloting Campus CMI are using the qualifications as an opportunity to work closely with local businesses to help students to understand the practical application of their learning.

Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College has been piloting the Campus CMI programme for the last year, with ten students having taken the programme as part of their enrichment course options. Not only has the programme helped to further students’ theoretical development of managerial and leadership skills, it has also seen these used in a real life setting with the help of local business partners.

In the spirit of entrepreneurial creativity, Laisterdyke College decided to structure its particular programme around the challenging business scenarios of its two supporting business partners, Cafe Zouk and Accent Group Housing Association. On developing their final assessments, which were either written or in some cases filmed, students were given the opportunity to work out real business solutions for those challenges actually facing both local businesses partners. In one scenario the students were asked to come up with ideas for redeveloping a restaurant to coincide with local planning and redevelopment laws. In another brief, students suggested how one of the businesses could streamline its operations to cut costs. Having put together their ideas, students were then asked to present these to the participating business owners, giving them a taste of real business procedure and the chance to give constructive feedback.

Gerard Liston, Head of Enterprise Education at Laisterdyke College has said how the Campus programme has really got students thinking about the kinds of skills and practices that will be expected of them in the world of work. By partnering with local businesses and their leaders, the college has been able to deliver a creative and yet realistic programme which presents students with the real life scenarios that they may face in future employment.

With students having now completed the programme for the 2009/10 academic year, the college will be rolling out the programme once again in the new academic year. They hope this will give other young people a chance to develop the leadership and management skills necessary to aid a successful future career.

Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College is a great example of how colleges and local businesses can work together to benefit students. Not only will doing so prepare young people for the working world, it will also give them a thirst for employment and the aspirations to take their career as far as they can. It will teach them the management, leadership and workplace skills that will boost career opportunities and develop the skills we know employers want to see in new recruits.

We’re really excited about the way Campus CMI will help to achieve this aim. Ultimately it will lead to better employment prospects for those young people gaining qualifications; a better fit between entry-level skills and employment needs; and a stronger, better performing base of UK managers. By involving national and local employers in both the development and delivery of pupils’ education, colleges will be giving them the opportunity to truly stand out from the crowd.

Ruth Spellman is chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, the professional UK body dedicated to promoting the highest standards in management and leadership excellence


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