independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Youth job expectation 'unrealistic'

Businesses are concerned that young people are not being prepared for the workplace, a report by the British Chambers of Commerce claims

Young people still have unrealistic expectations of work, with some asking where they can take a nap or failing to turn up for job interviews, a leading business group has warned.

Employers are calling for a new music exam-style qualification to replace GCSEs in key subjects such as English and maths to test teenagers on key literacy, numeracy, computing and foreign language skills.

In a major new report, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said that many firms are left confused by current qualifications such as GCSE and A-levels, and want a clearer system that tells them if young people have the basic abilities needed for a job.

And it suggested that schools need further incentives to focus on teaching young people the "softer" skills - such as teamwork, willingness to learn and communication - that they will require in the job market.

The group suggested that Ofsted should pay attention to how closely schools work with local businesses and that current "destination" measures, which look at what pupils are doing a year after leaving school, should be extended to five years.

The BCC's new Skills and Employment Manifesto says: "Although there are excellent examples of world-class practice among British schools, colleges, universities, training providers and employers, too many people lack the basic skills to succeed at work, let along the higher skills required to underpin our national prosperity."

BCC president Nora Senior said that employers have concerns around "not just the aptitudes but attitudes" of some young people.

"We're not pointing the finger of blame," she said.

"Successive governments and education establishments have failed young people by not ensuring that they are properly prepared for the world of work.

John Wastnage, BCC's policy manager for skills, said that there were a number of examples from employers of youngsters not being work-ready.

"One of the things we've heard about is businesses setting aside a day for interviews and none of the kids turn up. We're not condemning all young people. One of the concerns businesses have is about young people not being prepared."

He said that there was one story about a firm who had taken on an apprentice for the first time.

"She asked someone 'where do you go for a nap'," Mr Wastnage said.

"It's about having expectations about what work will be like."

In another case, a young man who had left a top university with a first-class degree joined a car hire firm.

"On his first day he came back livid because he had been washing cars all day. That was a fundamental part of the business but his expectations were that he would be managing a team from day one."

The BCC's new manifesto says that while employers do not expect the education system to produced "fully-formed skilled workers", they do require basic building blocks.

"Many employers are confused by the wide range of different qualifications and frequent changes to the system by successive governments and struggle to equate particular grades with skills relevant to their business," it says.

The BCC said its members were putting forward the case for a music certification-style qualification, which allowed pupils to progress in stages throughout their education. This would cover key skills such as writing a formal letter or report and real-life maths.

Pupils could take this qualification instead of GCSE English and maths and then take other GCSEs as well, such as in English literature, history or science.

Mr Wastnage suggested that the first of these qualifications could be taken at the end of primary school.

"Children progress at different stages," he said. "There is no reason why you couldn't teach children of different ages at different levels and allow them to progress at different ages."

The manifesto also suggests that careers education should start in secondary school and that National Insurance numbers could be used to track students' average earnings after they leave school.

And it calls for the Government's new "destinations" measures to be extended.

"Although there is value to understanding the destination of students after 12 months, this encourages some schools to find any destination rather than the right one for each individual. Destination measures should be extended to show five-year destinations."

Press Association

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