UK students not prepared for global demands of British business

Published on Thursday, 08 December 2011 11:45
Posted by Matthew Abbott

Three out of four business chiefs fear that the UK will be left behind by emerging countries unless young people learn to think more globally, according to an ICM business poll released today.

Another new report showed that less than half of the students polled by YouGov (48 percent) thought that an international outlook benefits their work prospects. The research, commissioned by the British Council and Think Global, was launched at the British Council in London at an event addressed by the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Key findings from Next Generation: UK research with students:

  • While almost two-thirds felt they had an ‘international outlook’, students failed to see the potential career advantages to be gained from international experiences, rating the aspects that might help their future employment prospects behind other benefits like making new friends, culture or altruism.
  • Only 18 percent of young people said they had done, or definitely planned to work, study or volunteer abroad, despite almost nine out of 10 saying that such experiences were a great opportunity.
  • When students who had enjoyed international experience were asked what they felt they had gained, only 12% listed ‘work contacts for future employment’.
  • Furthermore, Arts students were more than twice as likely to report involvement in international activity than Science students, and only a third of science, technology and engineering students felt that having an international outlook was important for their subject.

Key findings from The Global Skills Gap research with business leaders:

  • Three-quarters (74%) of the 500 business leaders polled worried that young people's horizons are not broad enough to operate in a globalised and multicultural economy. Employers agreed that: “Unless we better support schools to teach young people to think more globally, the UK is in danger of being left behind by emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil”.
  • 93% of businesses think it is important for schools to help young people develop the ability to think globally. 80% think schools should do more, only 2% think they should do less.
  • In recruiting new employees, more employers (79%) say knowledge and awareness of the wider world is important than those who say the following are important: degree subject and classification(74%), A-level results (68%), or A-level subjects (63%).

Dr Jo Beall, British Council director of Education and Society, said:

“This research shows that while British students are extremely keen to gain international experiences, there aren’t enough of the right opportunities for them to gain the professional skills that British employers really value. There are great examples of good practice from UK universities where young people can gain professional skills overseas. We would like to work with British business and education sectors to expand these opportunities and develop more. Otherwise the UK economy risks losing global competitiveness.”

Roger Clarke, Chair of Think Global, said:

“UK businesses urgently need people with an understanding of the wider world. Yet even those students lucky enough to go University still have a large gap in their awareness. It is crucial that we help children to start thinking globally during their school years. The report Global Skills Gap sets out some of the proven ways to help young people to think globally and broaden their horizons; scaling these up offer significant rewards for young people themselves as well as the UK economy."

Source: British Council

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