Young people need more support to make transition from education to work, says BCC

1st October 2014

The BCC's Workforce Survey suggests that stronger links must be formed between educators (schools, colleges and universities) and business to better prepare young people for work.

More than three-quarters (88%) of businesses think school leavers are unprepared for the workplace, while over half (54%) think graduates are not work ready. John Longworth: 'It isn't about pointing the finger at young people - it is a joint responsibility between businesses, educators and government'. Overview The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has today (Thursday) published findings from its Workforce Survey, Developing the Talents of the Next Generation. Results from the survey show that businesses overwhelmingly feel that many young people are not adequately prepared for the workplace upon leaving the education system. Findings from the survey of almost 3,000 companies show that more than three-quarters (76%) report a lack of work experience as one of the key reasons young people are unprepared for work. Over half (57%) said that young people are lacking basic 'soft' skills, such as communication and team working, to succeed in the working world. The BCC has made a number of recommendations to better prepare young people for work and to encourage businesses to play a greater role in preparing the next generation of workers. This includes universal work experience in all secondary schools, and assessing schools, colleges and universities on the employment outcomes of their pupils, rather than just exam results. Key findings from the survey: 88% of businesses believe school leavers are unprepared for the world of work, in comparison to 54% of businesses that think graduates are unprepared for the workplace. More than three quarters of firms (76%) believe a lack of work experience is the reason young people are unprepared for work. However, more than half of businesses (52%) say they don't offer work experience placements. Reasons for this include cost and time (25%), too much school admin (23%) and a lack of information (22%). 60% of firms that offer work experience said 'preparing the future workforce' was a key motivation. More than half of businesses (57%) said a lack of soft skills, such as communication and team working, were reasons why young people were not 'work ready'. Almost half of businesses (46%) said there was a lack of careers advice available for young people. Due to fears around the work readiness of young people, more than a quarter of firms (27%) said they have not recruited a young person (aged between 16 and 24) in the last year. Just over one third of businesses (39%) said they offer apprenticeships. An additional 32% of firms would consider offering apprenticeships in future, while 54% say funding for additional training would encourage them to hire more young people. To better prepare young people for work, the BCC has made the following recommendations taken from its 2014 / 2015 Business Manifesto: Introduce experience of work in all secondary schools, through links with Accredited Chambers of Commerce, to help ensure a smooth transition from the education system to the world of work. Assess secondary schools according to the future jobs and earnings of their pupils, through the appropriate school inspectorates in the devolved administrations. This would reform school measurement and accountability to focus on employability skills and preparation and exposure to work. Work with government and devolved administrations to place a business governor on secondary school boards to increase business engagement. Allow all university students to choose business and enterprise modules as part of their degree programmes, to encourage and train potential entrepreneurs and business people from a more diverse range of academic backgrounds. Increase the take up of apprenticeships by extending the £1,500 apprenticeship grant for employers beyond 2016. Demand from candidates has outstripped supply of apprenticeship vacancies by as much as 11 to one.* Commenting, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: -Many businesses are worried that in today's burgeoning economic recovery, hiring a young person is a risky move due to their lack of experience, not to mention the investment of time and resource needed to train them. Business people tend to favour more skilled and experienced applicants and while they do sympathise, their primary function is to run a business, which means making business decisions. Firms need young people that are resilient, good communicators and understand how to work as part of a team. -We believe that successive governments have failed our young people by not properly equipping them for their future careers. Creating artificial targets, such as half of school leavers should go to university, has in the past sent the wrong signal to young people about the employment and training options open to them. Young people should be able to fulfil their potential in their own talent pool. -But now is the time to break away from the blame game. Government and educational institutions must be more focused on equipping young people for the workplace, and in turn businesses must be more willing to give them a chance. In practice, this means introducing business governance into schools, proper careers advice with direct links to business, and measuring the success of schools and universities based on the employment outcomes of pupils. -This isn't about pointing the finger at young people it is a joint responsibility between businesses, the education system and government to provide the right skills and support that young people need to make it in the world of work. It is vital that we proactively build a pipeline of young talent who will go on to become the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs, as failure to do so could damage the UK's future growth prospects and risk a lost generation of young people.

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