Unless business and education work together more effectively, we risk failing an “entire generation of young people”, the BCC has warned

Schools need to do more to prepare pupils for the world of work by holding interview lessons and embedding key “soft skills” such as good communication and teamwork across the curriculum, business leaders have said.

According to a major survey of employers, over two-thirds of companies believe that secondary schools are ineffective at preparing young people for careers.

The study, involving 3,500 business and education leaders, published today by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), revealed that 41 per cent also think that universities are not preparing young people for employment.

In response to the findings, the BCC are calling for more businesses to work with schools in order to plug the skills gaps and help young people make a successful transition from education to work.

Recommendations from the group include holding lessons around recruitment and interview techniques and making sure contact with local businesses is at the heart of schools careers guidance.

With the youth unemployment rate sitting at three times higher than the national average, John Longworth, BCC director general, said the statistics were “cause for national embarrassment”.

“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,” he said.

“Preparing students to face potential employers should be given the same level of priority as academic achievement in schools across the UK.”

The survey comes as Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, warned that head teachers are giving students “wrong” and “selfish” careers advice in an attempt to keep pupils on into sixth form, thus protecting the school’s budget.

He said the Government were not doing enough to promote apprenticeships and that schools should let students know that university wasn’t the only option.

Responding to the results of today’s survey, Michael Mercieca, chief executive of Young Enterprise warned that provision of career advice was “too sporadic”.

“We agree with BCC that there should be a planned and coherent approach to the development of workplace skills in schools, ensuring that all young people develop key skills,” he said.

“This would help to build on the important work of the Careers and Enterprise Company in bridging the gap between schools and businesses, ensuring that more businesses work with schools to ease the transition from education to the work place.”

The BCC findings are part of a wider Business and Education survey, published in three installments by the BCC.

Results published last month found that 79 per cent of employers think work experience is the most important activity to equip young people with workplace skills.

While the majority of businesses offer some form of work experience, it was revealed that a third of businesses offer no work experience of any kind.

Commenting on today’s survey, Mark Boleat, policy chairman of City of London Corporation believes it is employers that need to do more to address the skills gap.

He said: “Urgent action is required to boost the skills of young people. Too many employers are having to fill the gaps of patchy careers advice at the recruitment stage.

“For a successful outcome, business engagement needs to happen a lot earlier. Businesses and schools need to work much more closely to raise awareness of skilled jobs and how young people can secure them. Pupils also need more frequent exposure to the workplace so they understand the practical and ‘real life’ application of their studies.”


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