Employers want young people to be better prepared for life outside school, says survey

Businesses want the education system to improve at giving young people the skills they need for work, says the 2014 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey.

In the survey of 291 companies employing nearly 1.5 million people, over half (61%) are concerned about the resilience and self-management of school leavers and a third (33%) with their attitude to work. By contrast, nearly all firms (96%) are satisfied with young peoples’ IT abilities when they enter the workplace.

Firms want primary schools to focus on developing literacy and numeracy (85%) with around one-third not satisfied with these skills among school leavers. Half (52%) are urging schools to develop a greater awareness of working life among 14-19 year olds with support from businesses. Companies are prepared to play their part with two-thirds (66%) willing to take on a larger role in the school careers system.

Businesses feel very strongly that the education system must better prepare young people for life outside the school gates, or risk wasting their talents.

The journey from school towards the world of work can be daunting, so we must support schools and teachers to help develop the skills, character and attitudes students need to progress in life.

We’re hearing the right noises from politicians of all colours, but the need for genuine reform on the ground remains.

We need young people who are rigorous, rounded and grounded, and business stands ready to play its part.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General

Everyone agrees that young people should be better supported as they prepare for the workplace – today business leaders echo the voices of teachers, Ministers and indeed young people themselves in calling for a more joined up approach to the transition from education to employment. The challenge now is to grasp the nettle so we bring employment and education opportunities together to meet the urgent social and economic need of creating a more highly-skilled workforce.

Through our World Class Qualifications programme Pearson is working with employers and education experts from around the world to ensure that young people in the UK are equipped with the skills they will need to prosper in education or in the workplace.

Rod Bristow, President of Pearson Core Markets

Key findings include:

  • Too many young people leave education not equipped with enough knowledge of their chosen job/career (school leavers 56%, graduates 30%) or relevant work experience (school leavers 55%, graduates 37%). This reflects concerns that careers advice is simply not good enough to help young people make informed choices (80%)
  • Businesses recognise the need to support schools with 80% forging links of some type with at least one school or college
  • The skills gap is getting worse - 58% of firms are not confident they will have sufficient highly skilled staff available for their needs in the future. A quarter (28%) of firms who need technicians qualified in science, technology, engineering or maths already report difficulty recruiting and a third (35%) anticipate problems in the next three years
  • Nearly half of employers (44%) have organised training to tackle weaknesses in basic numeracy, literacy and IT for adult employees and more than a quarter (28%) for those who have joined directly from school or college.

Other findings include:

The recovery faces mounting risk of skill shortages
More than half of employers are aware of weaknesses in the core competencies of at least some of their employees in literacy (54%), numeracy (53%) and IT skills (61%). But most employers consider overall skill levels among their employees as satisfactory with more than two thirds (69%) rating the skills of their high-skilled employees as good.

Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills in short supply
Businesses have concerns about both the quality (48%) and quantity (46%) of STEM graduates, and report that too many lack general workplace experience (39%).

Businesses are stepping up skills investment
Far more firms plan to increase their investment in employee training and development during the coming year than plan to cut back (producing a positive balance of +26%).

Shaping a fully effective apprenticeship system
Two thirds of those offering apprenticeships (69%) plan to extend their programmes in future while across all respondents one in eight (13%) plans to start offering apprenticeships in the next three years.

Raising the performance of our schools
The most important factors employers weigh up when recruiting school and college leavers are their attitudes to work (85%), their general aptitudes (63%) and literacy and numeracy (44%). These rank well ahead of formal academic results (30%).

Businesses recognise the need to support schools
Among employers with links to schools and colleges, the most common forms of support are offering work experience placements (77%) and providing careers advice and talks (67%).

Careers advice: not yet fit for purpose
Short-term work placements of a week or two are by far the most common type of work experience offered by businesses (89%), but almost half (46%) also offer longer-term paid internships.

Developing the right skills in graduates
A degree in a STEM subject gives graduates a clear advantage in the jobs market, with nearly half of employers (48%) reporting that they prefer graduates with these qualifications.

Businesses and universities: partnering for growth
More than two thirds (70%) of businesses have developed links of some type with universities and nearly half of firms (48%) are looking to grow their ties with universities in the future.

Read the full report

About the CBI

Across the UK, the CBI speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors which together employ nearly 7 million people, about one third of the private sector-employed workforce. With offices in the UK as well as representation in Brussels, Washington, Beijing and Delhi, the CBI communicates the British business voice around the world.