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More employers should offer work experience, says UKCES

Meaningful work experience should be a part of every young person’s education, according to a major new report.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills says more employers should open up their workplaces to young people to offer valuable work placements.

Its report, Catch 16-24, published today, says employers value work experience, but the majority aren’t engaged with education, with only 20 per cent offering placements to schools and just 12 per cent offering placements to colleges.

With such limited and inconsistent opportunities, it says, young people are caught in a ‘Catch-22 situation’ when it comes to finding employment; unable to get work without experience and unable to get experience without work.

The report says young people also face a ‘postcode lottery’; who you know and where you live have a “huge impact” on their chances of finding work.

UKCES research shows college students are better prepared for work than their peers at school, with 72 per cent of 17- and 18-year-old college leavers ‘well or very well prepared’ compared to just 60 per cent of school leavers of the same age.

The report calls for the worlds of education and employment to be better connected to prepare young people for the world of work.

“All schools, colleges and universities should have links with their local businesses to help inform and inspire young people about the breadth of career opportunities available to them,” it says.

“Contact with the world of work should be an ongoing part of every young person’s education.”

‘Earning and learning’ should be the norm, it adds, with things like high quality apprenticeships becoming an everyday career pathway for many more young people and a natural way for businesses to recruit and develop talent.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said post-16 education should not just be about exams, but ensuring young people have a mix of employability skills.

“We would like to see employers of all sizes engaged in creating opportunities for education and training across the country, but it isn’t just down to employers; careers education needs to change as well.

“Systematic careers education embedded into the curriculum, which includes work experience placements, should be an entitlement for every child and young person.”

David Harbourne, director of policy and research at the Edge Foundation, said the report reveals the “vital importance” of connecting young people with employers at a much earlier stage

This should start at school with careers talks, job shadowing, interview practice and work experience, he said.

"Employers, teachers and students should also be working together on real-world projects which bring learning to life and boost both ambition and achievement," he added.

A government spokesman said its new independent careers and enterprise company would encourage greater collaboration between schools and employers and ensure young people have access to high quality advice and opportunities.

“We have also introduced traineeships so that more young people can develop the vital skills and experience they need to secure an apprenticeship or other job.

“Leading employers including Virgin Media and Barclays are already offering young people work experience placements through the traineeships initiative and we are calling on even more employers to get involved.”

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Employers must take the lead in skills development, report says – November 2014

Work-based learning must be included in all vocational courses, says OECD – November 2014

Education system is not preparing children for work, say parents – October 2014

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