Business must work harder to maximise the potential that young people bring when making the transition from education to the workplace.

The call comes from Claudia Harris, Chief Executive of Careers & Enterprise Company, and Dr. Neil Bentley, Chief Executive of WorldSkills UK, after new research shows a gulf of expectations between business and young people about preparedness for work.  Worryingly, this disconnect is set against a backdrop of a post-Brexit imperative to develop more home-grown skills and the prospect of even more young people entering the workplace as a result of the apprenticeship levy.  

The research carried out for WorldSkills UK and the Careers & Enterprise Company, in which 2,000 young people were surveyed, shows that the majority (62%) believe that they are ready for the workplace.  They also stated that they are confident they are developing the soft skills that employers want, with young people highlighting using technology (66%), working in a group (54%) and being organised (47%) are the top skills they possess. 

These figures are in stark contrast to the CBI’s annual Education and Skills survey in which the majority of its members said that they feel many young people are leaving school without the right skill set or mind set needed for success at work. 

Dr Neil Bentley, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK said:  “There is a marked disconnect between young people and employers and our research raises an important question:  ‘Are businesses young-people ready?’  Businesses, quite rightly, have set out clear expectations of their needs, but they also need to engage with more young people to harness their drives and motivations if the UK is to thrive economically post Brexit.” 

Claudia Harris, Chief Executive, CEC said: “Rightly, there is a strong debate about how education can ensure that young people are ready for the workplace. This readiness is crucial for the growth of our economy. However, this research flags that employers must meet young people half way. Many young people believe that they are ready for the workplace.  If they are not, then employers need to help them build those missing skills while they are still in education – something that The Careers & Enterprise Company is focussed on.  If not, they must help them develop those skills once they enter the workplace.”

The research findings point to three key disconnects:

First, young people say they are ready for work. They decide on their choice by the age of 16 so early engagement is essential.  Businesses and education need to form coherent and robust connections to help ensure young people are on the right path.

Second, young people profess to have the very skills that most businesses say they need to improve. Young women rate themselves more highly in skills such as self-motivation, teamwork and communication – young men rate themselves more highly in terms of technology skills.

Third, perhaps surprisingly, young people say that they want stability in their careers (80%) – yet many businesses are seeking flexibility from the workforce, given changing economic circumstances.

Neil Carberry of the CBI said:  “Businesses know that their future success lies with the next generation of the workforce – that’s why we have seen so many firms stepping up with more careers advice and inspiration. But the language of schools and the language of the workplace often differ, so firms need to do more to ensure they understand the starting point of young people and what they will look for in the workplace as they grow with the education system.”

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