From education to employment

Preparing for the workplace: enabling social mobility in a competitive market

When making a decision about their future post-GCSEs and beyond, young people are faced with a range of choices. In an ideal world, the path they choose to follow should provide adequate opportunities for social mobility, regardless of their academic or financial background. With skills shortages in business a common challenge across the UK, it is ever more important that people from a wide range of backgrounds can access the positions that need to be filled.

University has long been considered the most effective pathway to a successful career in business or in the workplace. While it certainly remains a viable and rewarding option for many young people across the UK, it is important to also realise that rising fees and various academic or financial disadvantages mean this route is not always open to everyone.

At the same time, an aspiring young entrepreneur might be looking to strike out on their first major business venture, but in the absence of significant financial backing, is struggling for that extra bit of guidance to get themselves going and make that all-important first step on the entrepreneurial ladder.

For both of these groups of people, going to university or pursuing an apprenticeship scheme might not provide the right qualifications or training they need to get their burgeoning careers off the ground, or may not be an option due to financial constraints. In these cases, it’s crucial for young people to realise that there are other avenues open to them.

One of these avenues comes in the form of Ofqual-accredited courses leading to business qualifications. These certifications provide an affordable alternative route into the workplace, whether an individual is looking to forge a career in HR, marketing or management, or wants to make his or her own way as a business owner.

Qualifications such as these enable young people to take rapid first steps on the career ladder, or build the confidence they need to become successful entrepreneurs. The flexible nature of such courses means they suit a wide range of requirements, whether a student is looking to gain a basic grounding in their chosen discipline, or wants to hone their skills to an advanced level.

Crucially, these qualifications also enable students to top up with university degrees at both bachelors and masters level, providing a rapid pathway into higher education without taking on the financial burden of a full university degree. For those who consider university to be too expensive, this approach is a highly effective way of ensuring social mobility is still possible despite financial disadvantage.

Making a decision on a future in further and higher education or training can be a difficult one, but young people can seize the initiative and embrace social mobility if they are willing to explore avenues other than the traditional pathways. High-quality business qualifications enable young people to tailor their learning and work experience to suit their own individual circumstances, rather than having to adapt to the demands of a less flexible programme. The ways to achieve true social mobility are there; it’s just a case of knowing where to look.

Gareth Robinson is CEO of the Association of Business Executives (ABE)

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