School-leavers ‘not ready for work’

LAST month’s GCSE and A Level results will see thousands of Huntingdonshire youngsters setting off for sixth forms and universities.

But thousands more will be looking to start work – and business leaders say many of them will not have left schools with the right skills.

Huntingdonshire FSB chairman Malcolm Lyons says he understands that there is more to education than preparing young people for the employment market but insists preparation for earning a living is a key component of their future ‘life chances’.

“More could be done to give students an insight into what awaits them in the world of work,” he told The Hunts Post. “Sometimes they can’t even answer the phone. Some of our members say the youngsters can’t speak and haven’t even been taught what to do in an interview.

“The feeling is that schools are concentrating more on exams than preparing kids for going to work. We’re not questioning teachers’ abilities at all – we just want them to include ‘job lessons’.”

But Mr Lyons acknowledges that business could do more to help itself by becoming more proactive in getting involved in the education process, and explaining what employers are looking for in school leavers and graduates.

“A lot of businesses would rather groom people than take a graduate who thinks he’s already groomed – but they do need basic numeracy and literacy.”

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His comments followed publication of a national FSB survey that indicated eight in 10 businesses did not believe school-leavers were ready for work.

Almost 60 per cent per cent of survey respondents who already employed 16 to 17-year-olds reported that their young employees had poor literacy skills. Numeracy was also judged to be poor by 55 per cent, and 56 per cent said communication skills fell short.

“These are the skills with which young people need to be equipped to be successful in today’s tough jobs market,” Mr Lyons said. “We want to see schools give these skills a higher priority by embedding them in all teaching from an early stage.”

Of the 2,774 survey respondents that employ 16 to 17-year-olds, 77 per cent also found that school leavers’ general business awareness was poor.

“So extending the duty on schools to provide careers’ guidance to pupils as early as possible is key,” the FSB said.

“Early careers guidance and equipping young people with skills such as CV-writing, time-keeping, problem-solving and team working would not only help employers, but would give young people a better understanding of potential jobs and career paths.”

Mr Lyons added that Huntingdonshire manufacturers were having to recruit foreign language speakers from overseas to staff their export departments because of poor language skills among school-leavers.