News

  • Business and Higher Education appeal for long-term view of education to support economic growth

    A new report published today urges the government to radically overhaul the way the current school curriculum is developed to ensure it better meets the needs of the future economy.

    The report, 'Making Education Work,' follows a six-month review of England’s education system by an independent advisory group consisting of prominent business leaders and chaired by leading academic Professor Sir Roy Anderson.

    The report's key recommendations are:

    • A cross-party body should ensure the school curriculum is aligned to the future economy.
    • A levels should be slowly replaced with a Baccalaureate system.
    • The importance of interpersonal skills should be recognised and evidenced.

    With the content of the school curriculum continuing to change with each new administration, the report recommends the establishment of a new independent body, made up of teachers, employers, higher education and importantly, political parties. The new group would aim to establish a long-term political consensus on the school curriculum, with ultimate responsibility for delivering and assessing that curriculum continuing to be vested in the government.

    The Making Education Work report also recommends:

    • The A level system should slowly change to a baccalaureate-type system which supports a broader curriculum, to keep career options open and enable flexibility in later life.
    • England should formally adopt a formal framework for key competences, to include important attributes like team working, which are predicted to become increasingly important in the job market.
    • The testing of higher level reasoning skills, rather than just knowledge of theory or facts, should carry greater weight in qualifications, as more roles in the future will require these skills.
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  • Graduates more likely to be employed if they studied a vocational course at sixth form or college

    A new study shows an established vocational route into degree study, and that vocational skills are a ‘recipe for resilience’ in a changing labour market.

    New research published today indicates that university graduates who only studied vocational qualifications at sixth form or college were more likely to be in employment than their peers who had studied purely academic qualifications such as A levels.

    Analysis of Labour Force statistics in a new study by London Economics, commissioned by Pearson, showed that, across age groups and gender, graduates with BTECs had an average full-time employment rate of 80%, compared with 74% for A level-only graduates.

    On the day a government consultation closes on the future of vocational qualifications being taught in schools and colleges, these figures underline the role that qualifications that develop vocational skills could play in reducing the UK’s historically high unemployment rates now and in the future.

    Although many more A level students progress to university than those studying vocational qualifications, thousands are now starting degrees having completed BTECs and other qualifications, often after a period of time in the workplace. Almost 40% of BTEC learners are aged 27 or above when they achieve their degree, compared with only about 10% of A level learners.

    The figures indicate that A level learners take a much more ‘linear’ path compared with ‘non-linear’ BTEC learners, who have a mix of education and employment experience. However, over half of BTEC graduates progress straight to university on completing college or after a short break.

    Figures showed that graduates who had studied BTECs at school and college were on a par with their A level-only peers in terms of the jobs they subsequently secured. On some measures they did better: more BTEC-only graduates were found to be working as Managers, Senior Officials, or in Associate Professional roles compared with A level-only graduates (48.9% versus 45.1%).

    The other main findings of the report included:

    • 56.1% of BTEC students with a degree studied Engineering, Maths and Computing and Business and Finance compared with only 26.8% of A level students.
    • On average, BTEC students graduating from university are as likely to achieve a first-class degree as their A level peers (BTEC graduates at 12.2% compared with 11.4% for A level). 
    • Male graduates with a BTEC in the Tyne and Wear and northern regions, West Yorkshire, East Anglia, parts of the West Midlands and Northern Ireland earn more than those who only did A levels at college and sixth form, though this effect is reversed in London and the south east.
    • Across all regions, BTEC graduates in skilled trade occupations earn more.

    Rod Bristow from Pearson said:

    “We already know that there is a strong positive correlation between having a vocational qualification such as a BTEC and being in employment. This new data shows that vocational qualifications, like A levels, also give you the opportunity to excel at university.

    “This research is no reason to rest on our laurels. With unemployment rates at a historic high amongst young people, we need to learn the lessons from these insights.

    “All students, whether they are taking an academic or a vocational route, should have the opportunity to develop the workplace skills and experiences that employers clearly value, and which are enabling success at degree level in disciplines that are critical to growing our economy, like Engineering and Computing.”

    Dr Gavan Conlon of London Economics said:

    “Having looked at the data of tens of thousands of workers across several sectors over a number of years, this analysis is clear that those learners who attained their degree through the BTEC route are more likely to be employed.

    “With a rapidly changing economy, people need to continually update and adapt their skills, and we’re seeing people take up degrees later in life, as well as school leavers. The blend of skills and motivation developed through vocational qualifications and time in work may prove to be the recipe for long-term resilience in the employment market.”

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  • Pearson launches higher education college

    At Pearson, we’re launching a higher education college - becoming the first FTSE 100 company to directly deliver degrees in the UK.

    The college is seeking to recruit the brightest and most entrepreneurial students and equip them with the knowledge and skills employers seek.

    The college has worked with a range of businesses to design a unique style of business degree. The Pearson Business and Enterprise degree course will focus on preparing students for the world of business and has been developed in conjunction with BT, Cisco, the Peter Jones Foundation and Atos. Students will graduate with a BSc (Hons) degree validated by Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, part of the University of London. Students will study in a corporate environment at Pearson’s offices in London or Manchester and also take part in a residential at Royal Holloway’s campus. The degree includes a guaranteed internship programme and a company-based mentor for every student.

    Pearson College is currently recruiting a small cohort of pioneers to start in September, ready for the main launch in September 2013. Applicants will undergo an Oxbridge style assessment day which includes an interview and aptitude test. While standard entry requirements are ABB at A-Level (or equivalent), the college is using the assessment day to consider students with potential, looking at their ability and motivation, and not just their previous academic success.

    Tuition fees are set at £6,500 per year for the three year programme. Pearson is offering ‘Performance Scholarships’ to cover the course fees for the very brightest.

    The Pearson Business degree is flexible and students have the choice of three routes, enabling them to choose the one that best fits their lifestyle. The traditional three year mode follows the same yearly pattern as traditional universities; alternatively students can choose to accelerate over the summer and complete in only two years; and finally students can combine work and study and complete in only four years.

    Commenting, Roxanne Stockwell, Managing Director, Pearson College, said:

    “Given its academic publishing heritage and over 150 years of commercial experience, Pearson is uniquely placed to develop and deliver degrees that combine a solid academic foundation with meeting business and employer needs.

    “Our degrees are designed by business, delivered with business, for students who are serious about succeeding in business.

    “We have a network of blue chip industry relationships, many of whom are working with us on the design and delivery of our degree programmes. This gives us an inherent understanding of the modern business environment and employer needs. Our degrees will therefore embed professional work experience, business skills and etiquette, with significant and relevant input from our industry partners.”

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  • UK needs more high-level skills to compete for growth, says CBI and Pearson survey

    In a CBI/Pearson survey of 542 companies employing around 1.6 million people, 61% say school and college leavers don’t have enough self-management skills.

    The number of employers who are dissatisfied with school and college leavers’ basic skills remains stuck at around a third – the same as a decade ago(1) – with 42% reporting that they have had to provide remedial training for school and college leavers.

    The persistence of this finding suggests that there are structural issues within our schools that need to be addressed if we are to ensure every young person gets a good start in life. The CBI has recently launched a major project designed to address this issue.

    The survey also finds that as the UK competes ever more for business and talent in global markets, employers are looking to up-skill their workforces. Over the next three to five years, employers expect to need more people with leadership and management skills (a balance of +67%) and other higher skills (+61%), whereas for lower-skilled workers, they expect to slightly cut numbers (-3%).

    While half of employers (a balance of +51%) are confident that they will fill their low-skilled vacancies, they are not confident of meeting their need for higher-skilled employees (-15%).

    John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said:

    “The UK’s growth will depend on developing a wider and deeper pool of skills so that our economy can prosper in the face of fierce international competition for business.

    “There is nothing more important to the future economic success of our country, and the lives of young people, than education.

    “The foundations for the development of higher-level skills and the essentials for working life, that employers require, are laid at school.

    “With the right start at school our young people can go on to have successful and fulfilling careers and have a strong base from which to learn more at college, university, or in the workplace.

    “But levels of educational attainment are rising fast in many leading and emerging economies, so in the UK we must ensure that our education and skills system can continue to compete at the cutting edge.”

    Rod Bristow, UK President of Pearson said:

    “The connection between education and the world of work is critically important. Employers and all of us working in education have a big task to address that connection properly. Despite improvements in the past decade, employers want to see an even sharper focus on literacy and numeracy, beginning at primary school. Literacy and numeracy are the basic building blocks that help young people learn other subjects, get on in life and find rewarding work.

    “But it’s not just about literacy and numeracy. Even the best-performing nations say the number one issue in education is to better equip school leavers with the broader skills needed for working life, and we are no exception. Employers still find that some young people lack the initiative, problem-solving and communication skills to succeed at work.”

    “But this survey should fuel optimism that the best and brightest firms are continuing to invest in education, work with schools and colleges and maintain their own investment in training.”

    Importance of school performance underlined by more businesses building links with schools

    Employers recognise that they have an important role to play helping students and schools understand what skills are needed for working life. More than a third have increased their engagement with schools in the past year (+39%), while just 7% have reduced it, giving a balance of +32%.

    • 57% have links with secondary schools
    • 56% with further education colleges
    • But only 20% with primary schools

    One of the most important roles which half of all employers already carry out is providing careers advice (51%), but it’s clear that more work needs to be done in this area, with 68% saying that the general quality of advice is still not good enough. More than 60% of respondents say they would like to play a greater role in delivering careers advice.

    In other areas, more than two thirds of employers (70%) provide work experience to students and around a third of employees (29%) act as governors. The survey found that some of the barriers to stepping up business involvement include insufficient guidance and support on how to make work experience placements worthwhile (26%), and onerous health and safety requirements (22%).

    When asked which areas of education they think primary schools should focus on, 61% of employers said numeracy, 58% writing, 45% reading, and 42% said communication skills. For secondary schools, employers say the main focus should be on developing broader skills for working life:

    • Employability skills – 71%
    • Literacy – 50%
    • Numeracy - 45%

    But, the survey finds that no one current qualification addresses the combination of literacy, numeracy and employability requirements effectively. While employers think that for numeracy, GCSE maths is the best qualification, they say that vocational qualifications best equip young people with the broader employability skills.

    Big growth in employer interest in ‘learn-while-you-earn’ approach

    One in five jobs (20%) requires graduate-level skills, particularly in professional services (70%). But most employers (63%) expect increases in tuition fees to change the market for graduate-level skills, with 30% expecting to receive fewer graduate applications in the future. As a result, more than a third of firms (38%) expect to expand their recruitment of school leavers and / or apprentices with A-levels to provide an alternative to graduate-level training. Among the largest employers, with more than 5,000 staff, this figure rises to 68%.

    John Cridland said:

    “With extra pressure on student budgets from changes to tuition fees, more employers are stepping in to offer a range of innovative ‘learn while you earn’ routes to higher-level skills.”

    Employers have increased apprenticeship places and maintained their spending on training

    Since the start of the Education & Skills survey five years ago, the number of businesses involved in apprenticeships has grown rapidly from 48% to 63% this year. More than half of employers (58%) say that they intend to expand their current apprenticeship programmes or plan to start providing apprenticeship places in the next three years. This is particularly encouraging in view of the end of government funding for programme-led apprenticeships and the need for all apprentices in the future to be sponsored by an employer.

    Small and medium-sized companies are still a relatively untapped market for apprenticeships. While 89% of organisations with over 5,000 staff are providing apprenticeships in 2012, this figure falls to 22% for firms with under 50 employees.

    In terms of action required to get more employers involved in apprenticeships, respondents highlighted the following:

    • Qualification programmes that are more relevant to business needs – 46%
    • Government support for firms to train more apprentices than they need – 37%
    • Greater flexibility for employers to design bespoke frameworks – 36%
    • More suitably qualified and motivated young people applying – 34%
    • Reductions in bureaucracy – 28%, rising to 57% for larger firms

    In November, the Government announced measures to reduce the amount of red tape around apprenticeships, but so far only 6% of employers say they have experienced a change.

    In the face of challenging economic conditions, the vast majority of employers (81%) plan to maintain or increase their spending on training over the coming year, but there are major differences between sectors. A balance of +17% of manufacturers say they are planning to increase spending, while -36% of public sector employers plan reductions. Two thirds of employers (67%) report that they intend to seek more cost effective ways of delivering training in the next year.

    John Cridland said:

    “Even in the difficult economic climate, business leaders recognise the importance of training and skills to their success and are investing now for the future.

    “It’s great news that apprenticeships are on the increase, but the system must be simplified to make it easier, especially for small and medium-sized firms to be involved. The Government has set out promising plans to cut red tape for apprenticeships, but we now we need to see urgent delivery on the ground.”

    Businesses need strong STEM skills to compete for growth

    Recruiting staff with strong science, technology engineering and maths (STEM) skills will help underpin the UK’ ability to compete and achieve growth in many major sectors like manufacturing, construction and engineering. People with STEM skills are recruited at every level from apprenticeship entry (43%), technicians (40%) and graduates (53%). But 42% of firms struggle to find the STEM talent they require.

    Businesses are well aware of the need to take steps to grow the talent pool of STEM skills, with 64% taking some action to encourage young people to pursue STEM subjects. 42% of organisations provide high-quality work placements, 39% engage with schools to encourage pupils to study STEM subjects and 35% provide STEM apprenticeships. More than two-thirds of employers (68%) think the Government can help future shortages by better promoting science and maths in schools, especially post-16.

    Languages will help open up new markets to UK companies

    Operating effectively in a global economy relies on the right language skills, but the UK has the worst language proficiency in Europe, according to the Education & Employer Taskforce. An overwhelming 72% of businesses say they value foreign language skills, most importantly for building relations with overseas contacts (39%). The major European languages continue to be the most in demand, but language skills geared towards doing business in China and the Middle East feature prominently:

    • German – 50%
    • French – 49%
    • Spanish – 37%
    • Mandarin – 25%
    • Polish 19%
    • Arabic – 19%

    John Cridland said:

    “Rebalancing our economy will mean tapping into high-growth markets in places like Asia and Latin America, so companies will need people with the relevant language skills to do business in these countries.”

    Notes on this story

    (1)- 35% are dissatisfied with school and college leavers’ literacy skills and 30% with their levels or numeracy. These figures are broadly unchanged from 2003 when CBI data showed that 34% were unhappy with the basic skills of school leavers.

    The CBI is the UK's leading business organisation, speaking for some 240,000 businesses that together employ around a third of the private sector workforce. With offices across the UK as well as representation in Brussels, Washington, Beijing and Delhi the CBI communicates the British business voice around the world.

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Press centre contact details for journalists

For enquiries regarding GCSEs, A levels and Key Stage 2 tests please contact:

Kasia Reardon
Media and Communities Manager, UK

T: +44 (0) 20 7010 2336
M: +44 (0) 7702 512312
E: kasia.reardon@pearson.com

For enquiries regarding vocational qualifications and Pearson College please contact:

Tom Philpott
Government Relations Manager, UK and Europe

T: +44 (0) 20 7010 2313
M: +44 (0) 7715 890442
E: tom.philpott@pearson.com

Additional media contact:

Martin O'Donovan
VP Media and Government Relations, UK and Europe

M: +44 (0) 7968 438 219
E: martin.odonovan@pearson.com

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