Preparing school leavers for work

Published on Wednesday, 29 August 2012 15:01
Posted by John Walker

This year's GCSE results fell for the first time since they were introduced. And at the same time, we published figures showing that eight in 10 small firms don't believe that school leavers are ready for the world of work

Our  survey also revealed that 59 per cent of small firms who already employ 16 to 17-year-olds said their young employees had poor literacy skills. Another 55 per cent said numeracy was also poor and 56 per cent said communication skills fell short.

But what can be done to help improve these skills so that young people are ready for the workplace when they leave school?

It won't be a surprise that our survey shows that two thirds of businesses think that improving basic literacy and numeracy skills would better prepare young people for work. Many people talking on our Facebook fanpage suggested that maths should be taught with running a business in mind, to help prepare people for work and make it relevant to everyday life.

We think extending the duty on schools to provide careers' guidance to pupils as early as possible is key. Early careers guidance helps young people to realise what skills and qualifications they might need for their chosen careers and would give young people a better understanding of potential jobs and career paths.

But with 77 per cent of businesses saying that school leavers' general business awareness is poor, we need to get skills and employability skills taught in schools.

Employability skills should be embedded in the curriculum from an early age so that young people are more equipped to deal with problem solving, independent learning, and communication when they are in a work environment.

We were disappointed with the decision to remove work-related learning from the curriculum at key Stage 4. The concept of work related learning is and should be broader than purely work experience placements.

Students should be provided with a whole range of experiences and skills they will need in the workplace such as job application techniques, time keeping, and teamwork. We hope that schools will continue to offer this to young people even though they don't have to.

All schools should be offering work experience to their pupils and engaging with local small businesses to ensure that young people are getting the work-related learning that they need.

We've worked with Young Enterprise through our Real-Life Entrepreneur campaign to try and nurture entrepreneurship from a young age to ensure that future generations are equipped with the skills they need to run their own business, or go into the world of work.

We believe that enterprise and employability should be taught in schools, colleges and universities and should be part of the national curriculum.

With the latest figures showing that youth unemployment is still around a million, we need to make sure that we are equipping our young people with the skills they need to find work in a tough job market.

Taking away work placed learning will not help to achieve this. Everyone is quick to judge on what skills young people have, or don't have. So it's now time we put words into action.

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