Young people and employers united in wanting to keep options open at 16

View all tags

The overwhelming majority of students and employers want young people to be able to keep their options open at 16 and not have to choose between an academic route or a specific occupational route, new polling shows.

A new survey of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) across the country, and another poll of 18-24 year olds by YouGov, on behalf of Pearson, shows that 83% of employers agree that students aged 16 should be able to pursue a range of options including an academic route such as A Levels, a career-focussed route such as a BTEC, and a more specialised vocational or technical route like the new T Levels. Only 3% disagreed.

Similarly, when young people were asked how they would feel if they were forced to choose a career path at 16, over three-quarters responded negatively. They said they would feel stressed (28%), frustrated (36%) or wished they had taken more vocational courses to prepare them for options (13%). These were the top three answers. Only 12% expressed confidence (7%) or excitement (5%). 

  • New polling from YouGov shows that both employers and young people strongly agree with the notion of different pathways at 16
  • Businesses are increasingly finding it difficult to recruit staff at all levels and place a priority on career-focussed, work-ready skills
  • Employers and young people have high brand recognition of Pearson BTECs. A majority of medium sized employers have hired Pearson BTEC graduates in the last five years
  • The majority of young people expect to change careers several times in their lifetime and want qualifications that prepare them for work

These messages are also consistent with recent YouGov polling done of parents, which showed that when asked about the top three attributes parents actively want children to acquire for the working world, they ranked aptitude and readiness for work as most important (84 per cent), followed by numeracy and literacy coming (83 per cent) and then digital and IT skills (79 per cent). 50% of parents also said that they were worried that their children were not getting the skills needed for future employment through schools.

These new polls also show that businesses are finding it hard to recruit for the skills they need for jobs, and this is due to a lack of candidates with broader career-related skills. 45% of employers who have recruited in the last three years say it’s been fairly or very difficult to recruit qualified staff. When asked what they wanted from jobseekers leaving school, 58% want an employee with a mixture of academic and professional/vocational skills, and 32% want them to have vocational skills only. Only 10% want school leavers with academic experience only.

"These new polls show that businesses are finding it hard to recruit for the skills they need for jobs, and this is due to a lack of candidates with broader career-related skills"

When asked what one factor is most important in them getting a job, young people prioritise work experience (37%), and interpersonal skills (19%). Only 13% say academic performance is the most important. 80% of students consider the prospects of getting a job as a significant factor when choosing courses post-16.

The government has just closed a consultation on the future make up of the qualifications sector at Level 3 and below for post-16 learners. This poll shows that Pearson’s BTEC - one of the qualifications that the consultation puts at risk of being defunded -  is very well known by young people and employers, and that it leads to preparation for career and work:

  • 80% of all employers have heard of BTECs and 78% of HNCs and HNDs
  • 80% of young people have heard of BTECs – just behind A Levels (89%) and Apprenticeships (84%)
  • Of those medium enterprises (50+ staff) who have hired staff in the last 5 years, 65% have hired staff with BTEC qualifications.

The polls also show:

  • Young people are expecting to have a fluid career. 46% of them expect to change careers at least three times in their lifetime. This is consistent with predictions about the future of work.
  • 18-24 year olds are worried about climate change (61%), housing (48%) and leaving the EU (45%). Only 12% are worried about the cost of education, the same as those worried about national security and terrorism. Only 21% say availability of good jobs.
  • Only 36% of employers feel optimistic about the economy in the next 3 years (40% pessimistic, 30% neutral).

"Pearson’s consultation response to the review emphasises that there should be choice and flexibility in the qualifications available to young people"

The poll comes as a coalition of other organisations – including the government’s own qualifications regulator Ofqual, the Sixth Form College Association, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers and the Association of School and College Leaders - recently came out in favour of Pearson’s BTEC and the vital role it plays for young people and for employment or further study. 

Pearson’s consultation response to the review emphasises that there should be choice and flexibility in the qualifications available to young people. They believe that young people at 16 should have three broad routes open to them: an academic pathway which would tend to lead in most instances to higher education; a career-focussed pathway which allows options for both further study or career preparation; and a more specialised technical pathway. The consultation itself shows that a Pearson BTEC provides a solid starting point for progression into both work and into HE – with almost a quarter of young people entering university last year doing so with a Pearson BTEC as part of their suite of qualifications. 

Rod Bristow, President Pearson UK and Core Markets, said: "It’s crucial for students to have choice at age 16 and to leave options open for career or educational progression.  Pearson BTEC qualifications provide an important option for young people that neither A Levels, nor the incoming T Levels can do. While T levels are great for 16 year olds who already know their chosen occupation, BTEC is ideal for those wanting a career focused pathway that keeps their options open".

"We have been struck by the number of organisations making the argument about needing to maintain the Pearson BTEC in recent days. And this polling shows that across the country, young people and employers agree. We urge the government to consider the responses to this consultation carefully and not make any decisions during this time of great change for the U.K. that could hamper the prospects of young people or our economic growth."

About Pearson

Pearson is the world’s learning company with more than 24,000 employees operating in 70 countries. We combine world-class educational content and assessment, powered by services and technology, to enable more effective teaching and personalized learning at scale. We believe that wherever learning flourishes so do people.

Filter by tag