• The business organisation set all MPs the challenge of finding first hand from employers what prevents them from hiring young people
• John Longworth: “There is no silver-bullet solution to the youth unemployment challenge, yet there are some simple things that can be done here and now to help educate our young people about their future career opportunities.”
Ahead of the nationwide publication of A-Level results on Thursday, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is calling for a rebalancing of young people’s education to include a greater emphasis on preparation for their future working lives.
We wrote to all MPs last month setting them the challenge of finding out first hand from local employers in their constituencies what prevents them from hiring young people. We will be meeting MPs after the summer recess to discuss the ways that government can support employers to hire more young people now, as well as a more radical shift for the medium term. Without experience, young people are a risk for employers, and accepting this reality must be the starting point for parliamentarians.
As usual, pupils and teachers have worked hard this year preparing for exams, and we wish them the best of luck with their results this week. Unfortunately this hard work is often undermined because the other fundamental building blocks are not in place to prepare those students for their working lives.
Our members often tell us they cannot find school or university leavers with the right skills, experience or work ethic. Furthermore, some employers who offer high-quality apprenticeships struggle to attract the best candidates as those with good A-levels are encouraged to go to university rather than undertake an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships can provide a better route into a highly skilled career and offer the chance for individuals to earn while they learn, gain real skills and work experience, and often continue in the job when they finish.
Striving for the highest academic standards is important. Our knowledge-based economy will generate increasing demand for those with the best degrees and higher level apprenticeships. But employers are looking for more than just good qualifications. They value the skills that are relevant to their business, along with a good attitude and real work experience. While at school, students need better advice on which courses will be most valued by employers. School needs to become a place where pupils learn from employers as well as professional teachers if future generations are to avoid the high unemployment facing young people today. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently warned that youth unemployment is the UK’s biggest challenge, and we must find new ways to tackle it.
Commenting, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“Youth unemployment has been a long-standing problem in the UK, and so far the government’s attempts to address it haven’t worked. Businesses create jobs, and to tackle this problem you have to persuade employers to hire young people. Businesses I speak to up and down the country want to work with young people and are happy to train and employ them. But they are often disheartened if not downright frustrated to find school leavers and graduates do not have the minimum skills they need to join the workforce – poor literacy and numeracy, and behaviour and attitudes that don’t meet business expectations.
“We need to see a drastic change of approach if we are to make a real difference – with more emphasis on the qualities that future employers will be looking for to shape their workforces. To achieve this, we need to see more careers education in schools, more contact between pupils and businesses via work experience placements and employer visits, and for students to have basic commercial skills when they leave school.
“There is no silver-bullet solution to the youth unemployment challenge, yet there are some simple things that can be done here and now to help educate our young people about their future career opportunities. First though, the government must stop fixating on exam results alone, and ensure that soft workplace skills are taught in our schools, or young people will continue to be left out in the cold.”