Focus on character skills at school, say businesses

Research reveals one in four 17 to 23-year-olds doesn't think education prepares them for work

-20% of students feel their school or college has prepared them for work

Businesses are calling for character and softer skills – like team leadership and problem-solving – to be given a greater focus in the curriculum.

It comes as CBI research reveals that almost one in four 17- to 23-year-olds doesn't feel that their education has adequately prepared them for the world of work.

The research also found that 44 per cent of employers agree and find that young people leaving school, college or university aren’t ready for work. 



Meanwhile, 47 per cent of teachers said that they felt there were fewer opportunities to develop employability skills and competencies due to changes in GCSE and A-Level qualifications, and that focus on rote-learning has been a detriment to developing the skills and attitudes needed for work.

Within the report, Getting young people ‘work ready’, employers identified three broad areas essential for the world of work: character, knowledge, and skills.

To address this, CBI says that the government – supported by a greater contribution from employers – should:

  • Rethink the role and form of GCSEs in an education and training system that sees learners in compulsory education until they're 18-years-old.

  • Reform the English Baccalaureate to ensure it fully encompasses a broad and balanced curriculum, especially when it comes to creativity.

  • Develop a shared understanding of what character really means with educators, government and employers – starting with the SkillsBuilder framework.

  • Better coordinate the support available to young people from government, employers and educators – including the joining up of the careers strategy and youth charter.

John Cope, CBI’s head of education and skills, said that employers, government and educators needed to work together to prepare young people for the modern world. 

“To help our education system keep up with a rapidly changing world, it’s vital we help the two-thirds of employers who want to get more involved in education to do so. Whether it’s helping deliver parts of the curriculum, offering work experience and careers advice, or getting involved as a governor or trustee, employers have an immense contribution to make,” he said.

A spokesman for the Department for Education: “Our education reforms, from introducing new GCSEs, to overhauling apprenticeships and technical education, are all about providing young people with the knowledge, skills ‎and opportunities to succeed in the world of work.

“We want to make sure young people are able to make informed choices and make the most out of meeting employers. That is why we launched the Enterprise Adviser Network where volunteers from businesses work with schools and colleges to provide young people with the opportunity to learn about the workplace.

“The secretary of state has been clear that education is not only about qualifications which is why he has launched his five foundations for building character and resilience to help teach children how to cope with challenges.”

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