Young people lack skills needed for world of work, says British Chambers of Commerce

Darren Evans

British businesses think young people lack the skills they need to succeed in the workplace, according to a new survey.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said the findings of it annual Workforce Survey suggest stronger links must be formed between schools, colleges and businesses. The survey of almost 3,000 companies reveals that 88 per cent of businesses believe school leavers are unprepared for the world of work.

More than three-quarters (76 per cent) report a lack of work experience as one of the key reasons young people are unprepared for work. More than half (57 per cent) said that young people are lacking basic ‘soft’ skills, such as communication and team working, to succeed in the working world.

The BCC has made a number of recommendations to better prepare young people for work and to encourage businesses to play a greater role in preparing the next generation of workers.

This includes universal work experience in all secondary schools, and assessing schools, colleges and universities on the employment outcomes of their pupils, rather than just exam results.

John Longworth, director general of the BCC, said many businesses feel hiring a young person is a “risky move” because of their lack of experience.

“Government and educational institutions must be more focused on equipping young people for the workplace, and businesses must be more willing to give them a chance,” he said.

“In practice, this means introducing business governance into schools, proper careers advice with direct links to business, and measuring the success of schools and universities based on the employment outcomes of pupils.”

However, Michael Davis, chief executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, said its own research from the beginning of this year had shown most businesses who recruit young people are pleased with their skills.

Its survey of more than 90,000 employers found that 55 per cent of businesses who recruit 16-year-old school leavers feel they are well prepared for work, rising to 74 per cent for college leavers and 83 per cent for university leavers.

“This dispels the myth that young people are feckless, unwilling or unable to work,” he said.

However, Mr Davis said he backed the BCC’s call for more and better work experience.

“Rather than being confined to two weeks in the summer, work experience needs to be thought of in its broadest sense and include business mentors, talks in schools and mock interviews alongside work experience placements,” he said.

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