School leavers lack basic work skills, CBI warns


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The Independent Online

School leavers lack the skills needed to succeed at work, a survey of business leaders has warned.

One in three business leaders is concerned at youngsters’ poor attitude to work, while more than half (52 per cent) are dissatisfied with school leavers’ communication skills, the seventh annual CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey found.

Almost four out of 10 (38 per cent) firms expressed concern at school leavers’ basic numeracy, while half said young job seekers’ problem-solving skills were not good enough.

Almost six out of 10 firms warned that the skills gap was getting worse and they feared they would not be able to find enough skilled staff in the future. A quarter (28 per cent) of firms who need technicians qualified in science, technology, engineering or maths already report difficulty recruiting and a third (35 per cent) anticipate problems in the next three years

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

“The journey from school towards the world of work can be daunting, so we must support schools and teachers to help develop the skills, character and attitudes students need to progress in life.”

Business leaders called for schools to better prepare young people for the world of work.

The survey of 291 companies employing nearly 1.5 million people found that almost two thirds (61 per cent) expressed concern at the lack of resilience and poor self-management of school leavers. By contrast, nearly all firms (96 per cent) were satisfied with young peoples’ IT abilities when they enter the workplace.

Firms called for primary schools to put more focus on literacy and numeracy (85 per cent) with around one third dissatisfied with these skills among school leavers. More than half (52 per cent) urged schools to develop a greater awareness of working life among teenagers. Companies are prepared to play their part with two thirds (66 per cent) willing to take on a larger role in the school careers system.

The survey also found that too many young people leave education without enough knowledge of their chosen career (school leavers 56 per cent, graduates 30 per cent) or relevant work experience (school leavers 55 per cent, graduates 37 per cent).

Four out of five employers warned that careers advice was simply not good enough to help young people make informed choices.

Nearly half of employers (44 per cent) have been forced to organise catch-up classes to tackle weaknesses in basic numeracy, literacy and IT for adult employees and more than a quarter (28 per cent) for young workers who have joined directly from school or college.

The CBI called for reform of the education watchdog Ofsted to ensure that academic progress and the development of character were given greater priority in schools.

Business leaders called for more apprenticeships and challenged the automatic assumption that an academic path was the best route to success for young people, arguing that vocational qualifications could be a viable and rewarding alternative. They also called for the return of compulsory work experience for teenagers and for more business engagement with schools.

John Cridland added: “There is a crisis in UK skills right now and our incapacity 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.”