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Education failing to prepare young people for work, employers claims

Businesses still think the education system is failing to prepare young people with the attitudes and skills they need to succeed in the world of work, according to a survey.

The annual CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey of 291 companies found employers think too many young people are leaving school or college “underequipped for life”.

More than half (61 per cent) of employers are concerned about the “resilience and self-management” of school and college leavers and a third are concerned about their attitude to work.

However, there has been a steady growth in recent years in satisfaction towards the IT skills of school and college leavers, which is now seen as satisfactory or better by 96 per cent of employers.

The survey also reveals businesses are increasingly recognising the need to support education, with 80 per cent saying they have created links of some type with at least one school or college. 

In the 14-19 age group, employers say the top priority for schools and colleges should be developing awareness of working life with support from businesses.

Katja Hall, deputy director-general of the CBI, said the survey showed many businesses remain concerned about the challenges they have with filling the roles of the future that will need more high-skilled employees.

“Beyond schools, a more responsive and demand-led system of skills development is needed to overcome this,” she said.

“The increased take up of advanced and higher apprenticeships and commitment to funding training at higher levels is a promising development, but it’s also vital this doesn’t result in a continued drop-off in numbers undertaking apprenticeships at an intermediate level.”

A spokeswoman for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said vocational qualifications were still seen as “inferior.”

“We need an education system that is more than an exam factory, with qualifications designed to assess the skills employers need, and sufficient teachers trained and qualified in the subjects they teach.

“And we need education policies to be developed in conversation with teachers, employers and other stakeholders to make sure they support young people to make the move from school and college into productive employment.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of teachers’ union the NASUWT, said: “One fact often omitted by these surveys is the scandalously low level of investment in workforce training and development made by employers in this country in comparison with other industrialised countries.

“Employers have a vital role to play in workforce development and should reflect on what more they can do to support the development of workplace skills in young people, including fostering closer links with schools, colleges and universities, rather than expecting schools to shoulder this responsibility alone.”

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