'Make work experience compulsory again,' say most business leaders

Survey findings follow government's decision to scrap mandatory work experience, although pupils must still be offered 'encounters with the world of work'

Jonathan Owen

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An overwhelming majority of business leaders want work experience to be made compulsory in schools again, according to a survey released today.

The survey reveals that 93 per cent of decision-makers in companies support such a move, just five years after the coalition government decided to scrap compulsory work experience.

More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of the 500 respondents said that work experience could help to prepare young people for the world of business, and more than half (57 per cent) claimed it would help to instil a strong work ethic in the next generation.

Asked what they struggle with when hiring young people, more than one in three (39 per cent) said that the majority of young people applying for jobs have little or no experience in the workplace.

However, 1,000 parents with children aged 14-18, who were also surveyed for the research, were less enthusiastic about a return to compulsory work experience, with less than half (48 per cent) supporting such a move.

There was more support for installing specially trained careers advisers in schools, which was backed by 58 per cent of parents.

Four out of 10 parents said that their child’s school did not offer work experience, whilst half reported that their child’s school did not provide information about apprenticeship schemes and one in four said that their child’s school simply did not provide any careers advice at all.

Almost one in 10 (9 per cent) of parents claimed their child’s school did not provide careers advice, work experience or advice on university placements and apprenticeships.

One in five (20 per cent) of parents said they did not find work experience and careers guidance useful when they were at school. More than one in four parents did not have any work experience or careers advice when they were at school.

Careers guidance 'needs proper funding'

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union, said pupils needed to think about the world of work at primary school, rather than waiting until they were older.

He said: “Work experience is not the only element that is needed, and leaving it until secondary school to talk to children about the world of work is too late. Even though employment is years away, it is at primary school where children first begin to dream about what they will become when they are grown up”.

And making work experience compulsory would have huge implications for funding in schools, according to Jan Ellis, chief executive of the Career Development Institute.

She said: “Schools are already struggling with reduced budgets, Unless careers education and guidance are higher up the school agenda and there is investment in the training of careers leaders in schools, the infrastructure is simply not in place to make this a reality."

Ben Rowland, co-founder of training provider Arch Apprentices, which commissioned the survey, said: “We have a duty to the young people growing up in this country to provide them with the right information at the right time, to prepare them for a career that is fulfilling, rewarding and in touch with the digital world we now live in."

He added: “Compulsory work experience would go some way to providing this, but there’s more we can do – employers, parents schools and training providers need to come together to arm young people with more information about their options; including skills-based apprenticeships, not just university”.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our careers statutory guidance makes it clear that secondary schools should offer their pupils encounters with the world of work as part of their careers strategy. This could include work placements, work experience or other employer-based activities such as talks, visits or careers fairs”

The findings come as The Careers Education and Guidance Summit takes place in London, with Anne Milton, minister for apprenticeships and skills, among the speakers.

The survey was conducted last month by Opinion Matters.

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