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Insight: Businesses call for reform of education system


The education system must better prepare school leavers for the world of work or “risk wasting their talents”, according to a new report.

The annual CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey has revealed that a third of employers are concerned about school leavers’ attitude to work, and 61% feel young people lack resilience and self-management.

The report also warned that the skills gap is getting worse, with 58% of businesses doubtful that they will be able to recruit highly-skilled staff in the future, and a quarter already reporting difficulty in recruiting technicians qualified in science, technology, engineering or maths.

A third of the employers surveyed are concerned about literacy and numeracy skills, with almost half forced to train adult employees in basic numeracy, literacy and IT, and 28% doing so for those who have joined the company direct from school or college.

“Businesses feel very strongly that the education system must better prepare young people for life outside the school gates, or risk wasting their talents,” said John Cridland, CBI director-general.

“We’re hearing the right noises from politicians of all colours, but the need for genuine reform on the ground remains.”

In addition, just over half of businesses are calling for schools to ensure 14-19 year-olds are more aware of working life. Business are prepared to support this, with 66% willing to take on a more significant role in the school careers system, and 80% already developing links with at least one school or college.

There are also many more firms planning to increase their investment in employee training and development during the coming year than those planning to make cuts.

Rob Wall, head of education and employment policy at the CBI, told TrainingZone that businesses have an important role to play in partnering with schools and colleges to improve ambition, achievement and performance.

“By providing young people with work experience and becoming involved in careers guidance, employers can spell out the value of the skills and knowledge developed at school and open pupils’ eyes to career opportunities. As a part of the wider community, business has an obligation to support schools to raise ambition and achievement.

“And there are many ways in which employers can support schools – setting up UTCs, sponsoring academies, supporting teachers and helping young people manage the school-to-work transition.”

Other findings revealed that two thirds of employers currently offering apprenticeships plan to extend their programmes in future, while 13% of survey respondents plan to start offering apprenticeships in the next three years.

Cridland warned that the skills crisis in the UK, as well as the inability to meet growing demands for higher skills, is putting the long-term prospects of the UK economy at risk.

“We need to create more apprenticeships, but also retrain current workers with in-demand skills in key sectors.

“We need a system that better reflects how well a school’s culture nurtures the behaviours and attitudes young people will need. Success should be measured by where young people go once they have left school or college, not on exam results alone.”

The CBI has called for a reform of Ofsted, so that academic progress and the development of character are both prioritised in schools.

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Lucie Mitchell


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