Half of employers believe the education system does not adequately prepare school leavers for the world of work, according to research published today by awarding body City & Guilds.
In a survey of more than 1000 small, medium and large businesses, almost 60% said their sector is facing a skills shortage.
Those who believe the education system is failing to meet business needs blamed a lack of work experience held by young people, as well them failing to understand what employers are looking for. Moreover, over 60% said they think young people’s employment expectations are too high.
The skills shortage is such that a third of employers are considering looking abroad to bolster their workforce. The need for skilled candidates is particularly urgent in IT, Digital and Information Services and Engineering and Manufacturing sectors, with around three quarters of employers facing a skills shortage.
Work experience was shown to be of particular importance, with 80% of respondents saying that it is essential to prepare young people for work. For many employers, a lack of work experience was a more pressing concern than a lack of academic qualifications; over half would hire someone without a degree, and core skills including numeracy, literacy and communication are particularly valuable.
Tony Moloney, head of UK education and skills at the National Grid, said the findings came as “no surprise”.
He said: “I strongly believe that there needs to be collaboration between employers, politicians and the education community to help prepare young people for the world of work. So, it’s great to see City & Guilds call for employers and government to step-up.”
The survey showed that employers are keen to tackle the problem by equipping young people with the necessary skills to enter the workplace during school. Some 71% of employers feel that it should be compulsory for 16-18 year olds to undertake some form of structured work experience, and over half showed an interest in helping to develop qualifications that strengthen the link between education and the needs of their businesses.
Work experience has been proven to increase young people’s employability; half of businesses said they have employed someone who has done work experience for them, compared with only 28% recruiting from a graduate placement scheme.
Chris Jones, chief executive of City & Guilds, said the research has “huge implications” for tackling youth unemployment.
“But the issue is not simply a lack of job opportunities,” he said.
“There is a more fundamental problem with the qualifications, core skills and lack of understanding of the workplace that is preventing young people from successfully finding employment. It is clear that a step change is needed in the education system to move away from a pure focus on academia towards a curriculum that meets the needs of employers.”
To address these concerns, City & Guilds is developing a programme of study for 14-19 year olds called the TechBac, which includes structured work experience. The programme will be offered from September 2014.
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