There is a clear gap between the skills students are being equipped with by secondary schools and those businesses want young people to have, the British Chambers of Commerce has said.
In its Business and Education Survey 2015, speaking to over 3,500 business and education leaders, the body said two thirds of firms feel secondary schools were not effective at preparing young people for work and could do more to help students get on the career ladder more easily.
The BCC’s director general John Longworth said businesses and schools were “still worlds apart when it comes to getting young people ready for the world of work”.
Youth unemployment rates are still three times the overall unemployment rate and the BCC has called on action from ministers, schools and businesses alike, saying firms should work more with local schools to help plug skills gaps and ease the transition from school to the workplace.
Three key areas were highlighted as important to work on in order to better bridge the gap between the worlds of education and work.
(1) Embed key skills for work in the curriculum
The top five entry level skills that firms value most were communication (88 per cent), literacy (69 per cent), numeracy (64 per cent), computer literacy (56 per cent) and teamwork (53 per cent).
(2) Hold lessons around recruitment and interview techniques
Most business people think schools should teach students how to conduct themselves in an interview (78 per cent), demonstrate transferable skills (54 per cent) and communicate lessons learned from work experience (46 per cent).
(3) Put direct contact with local businesses at the heart of careers guidance
Firms think careers advice should include workplace experience (64 per cent), encounters with employers and employees (62 per cent) and link curriculum learning to careers (45 per cent).
Education leaders and business people were at odds when it came to careers guidance, according to the BCC study. While 80 per cent of secondary schools believe they were effective at offering all types of career guidance, all the businesses surveyed said careers guidance needed reform.
Just under a quarter of firms think secondary schools were either effective or very effective at preparing young people for work, compared to the 69 per cent which said they weren’t effective.
Some 40 per cent of companies suggested careers guidance be tailored to the needs of each individual.
Longworth said: “Business people across the UK believe that secondary schools need to do more to help young people transition into employment by ensuring that their students have the preparation that businesses truly value.”
“High youth unemployment and business skills gaps are a cause for national embarrassment,” he added. “Unless ministers allow schools to increase their focus on preparing students for the working world and businesses step up and do more to engage, inform and inspire, we could fail an entire generation of young people.”
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