Should you make it your business to know about jobs?

13th March 2015 at 00:00
Industry leaders call for teachers to be better informed

Teachers need to be more knowledgeable about the jobs market and wider economy if they are to support pupils in finding work after school, according to business leaders.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said it was "critically important" to expose teachers to "the world outside education" if the Scottish government's youth employment strategy were to succeed. In its written submission to the Education and Culture Committee this week, the FSB said teachers were the "key delivery vehicle for large parts of the strategy".

The government programme was launched last December in response to the recommendations of the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce, with the aim of driving the creation of a "world-class vocational education system" and reducing youth unemployment by 40 per cent by 2021.

The recommendations included closer cooperation between schools, employers and colleges, and vocational routes being offered to young people while they were still at school.

The Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) argued that it was "critical" for teachers to be more informed about career paths in their region. An employer-led approach to delivering careers guidance would also help, it said in evidence submitted prior to this week's committee meeting.

"AGCC members consider this to be an area of significant weakness, with young people often receiving poor or incorrect information about careers and work opportunities in particular sectors," its submission said. "This change needs to be embedded in both primary and secondary schools."

The AGCC also revealed that in one secondary school in the region, it was compulsory for all teachers to visit a local firm to build links with the community. This had led to teachers being "better informed about the businesses recruitment process and business having a better understanding of the new Curriculum for Excellence and how a modern school operates", it said.

Colleges Scotland also advocated more information being provided to teachers, arguing that many "may have little personal experience" of the world of vocational employment, with "up-to-date practices" largely being "an unknown".

The umbrella body for further education institutions also called for Skills Development Scotland to provide teachers with relevant resources, and for teacher training programmes to ensure trainees had "better knowledge and understanding of vocational skills".

"Colleges have the experience of fostering links with schools, and could offer coaching and guidance to school staff in relation to current industry practice," Colleges Scotland added.

But equipping teachers with up-to-date careers information could prove a challenge, according to the FSB and the AGCC.

James Bream, the AGCC's research and policy director, said it was unfair to expect teachers to give accurate careers advice. "Employers are much more up to speed with what jobs exist," he told the committee this week.

In its statement, the FSB said developing teachers' knowledge of areas where they had little experience would be a challenge, "especially at a time of extensive curriculum change", adding: "Whether the funding provided by the Scottish government will allow teachers time out of the classroom to undertake necessary continuing professional development or create closer links with business remains to be seen."

Terry Lanagan, education director at West Dunbartonshire Council, called for more flexible school timetabling to increase opportunities for partnerships with colleges and employers.

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