Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 16.14.07Two-thirds of businesses in the North East (66%) believe that secondary schools are not effective at preparing young people for work, according to a major new UK-wide survey of 3,552 business and education leaders carried out by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC).

Business leaders surveyed think that secondary schools could do more to help students get on the career ladder – with threekey actions needed to bridge the gap between the worlds of education and work:

Embed key skills for work in the curriculum. The entry level skills that firms value most are: communication (93%), literacy (78%), numeracy (68%), teamwork (59%), IT (58%), problem solving (34%), planning and organisation (29%).

Support pupils to achieve job success

Firms think schools should teach pupils:

  • How to conduct themselves at an interview (77%),
  • How to demonstrate transferrable skills (55%)
  • How to communicate lessons from their work experience (53%)

Reform careers guidance to prioritise contact with businesspeople and the workplace

  • All businesses surveyed thought careers guidance needs reforming
  • Businesses think the following should be prioritised: workplace experiences (60%), encounters with employers and employees (57%), addressing the individual needs of each pupil/student (46%), and establishing a structured careers programme, supported by the Senior Leadership Team (41%)

With youth unemployment rates still stubbornly three times the overall unemployment rate, the BCC and NECC are calling for action not just from ministers and schools – but also from businesses, more of whom need to work with local schools to plug skills gaps and help young people make a successful transition from education to work.

Paul Carbert, NECC Policy Advisor said of the results: “Some of these results are disappointing; however the North East is making progress in this area. All of the actions called for by business leaders to improve careers advice are included in the eight benchmarks identified by the Gatsby Foundation’s Good Career Guidance report, so as a region we are aware of what needs to be done, we just need to do more of it.

An example can be found within North East construction company Esh Group who recently won the BITC National ‘The Schools Partnership Award 2015’ for its Building My Skills Programme.

The scheme brought together businesses and schools across the north of England to provide a structured, free career advice programme to almost 7,000 young people providing invaluable understanding about the world of work directly from employers with students benefitting from mock interviews, work experience and apprenticeship opportunities.

“This research shows that there is much work to be done, but we are starting to see progress being made,” said Mr Carbet.

“We are currently supporting the North East LEP’s Career Benchmarks Pilot which will test the implementation of the benchmarks in 13 schools and colleges in the NELEP area and look forward to seeing the results this will achieve.

“Employers are our best asset. However, without engaging with higher education institutions it is possible that a vicious cycle will prevent the skills gap from closing. Employers need to work together with school, colleges and universities and reach out to young people to show them their companies exist.

“Businesses must continue to offer work experience, give advice on writing CVs and invite students to take part in practice interviews. By volunteering their time to share their own career paths as a guest speaker or providing one on one mentoring, an employee can make a huge difference to a student’s future career.”

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Further findings from the survey:

  • There is a mismatch between education leaders and businesspeople when it comes to careers guidance. Eight out of ten secondary schools believe they are effective at offering all types of careers guidance. However, all businesses surveyed thought careers guidance needs reform.
  • Businesses want careers guidance reforms to include workplace experiences (60%), encounters with employers and employees (57%) and a focus on addressing the individual needs of each pupil/student (46%).
  • A smaller proportion of businesses think curriculum learning should be linked to careers (44%); be a structured programme, supported by the Senior Leadership Team (41%); or include personal guidance from a careers adviser (30%).
  • Just 25% of businesses think secondary schools are either very effective or fairly effective at preparing young people for work – with 66% of businesses saying secondary schools are not very effective or not effective at all at preparing young people for work, while 9% of firms don’t know.
  • In comparison, 40% of businesses think further education colleges are not very effective or not effective at all, and 42% think universities are not very effective or not effective at all at preparing young people for work. While these numbers are less than those for secondary schools, they are still high and concerning, given the skills gaps employers presently face.