We have been asking ourselves the question,
How do we prepare our young people for the fast-changing world of work?
We recently attended two Skills and Careers Fairs at a local secondary school and University. Both establishments feel passionately about preparing our young people for the world of work and the events were set up to enable the students to ask questions about the business world and to gain some tips on completing applications, interview practice and skills needed in the work place.
It occurred to us that there is a big gap between what employers need and that which our society in general provides, as some pupils have not had any work experience by the time they leave school or college.
A survey by the Gatsby Foundation found that in only 40 per cent of schools did a young person have an encounter with an employer at least once a year from Year 7 onwards.
We have tried to pass some of our expertise to the students, as we realise that it isn’t the exclusive purpose of education to create work-ready employees, but it is necessary to prepare young people for work more efficiently than at present. We know that academic performance has a bearing on suitability for work, but feedback from employers is that they also value attitude and commercial awareness above academic attainment.
As the pace of change accelerates, preparing young people for the rapidly evolving employment landscape becomes increasingly more important. Many young people will work in industries that may not yet exist and will change jobs multiple times. The question is how best to prepare them for this changing world of work.
The best research on how to inspire and prepare young people for work identified the following;
Encounters with employers, work places and higher and further education to inspire and enthuse.
Information – about education and employment paths, advising on how different qualifications can lead to alternative employment opportunities.
It has already been proven that young people who have interactions with employers while at school are more likely to end up employed than those who have had none. Business encounters inspire young people and help them understand the relevance of their education; enable them to learn by doing and experiencing; and bring them close to the reality of the employment market.
The UK Commission for Employment and Skills found that 66 per cent of employers think work experience is critical or significant when hiring, but only 38 per cent of employers offer it. In Cumbria and South West Scotland, small businesses are the main source of job creation. If we can engage the business and education communities to provide these encounters, as well as parents providing encouragement and young people attending them, we have a unique opportunity to improve the futures of both our young people and our local economy.