School leavers are not ready for the world of work, say small business owners

Tom Newcombe , 11 Jan 2013

Network Rail

School leavers no longer have the right skills to equip them for the world of work and apprenticeship schemes for young people have an image problem, according to a report published today by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The report, The Apprenticeship Journey, found that 81% of small business owners are 'not very confident' or 'not at all confident' that students leaving school at 16 have the right level of employability skills.

It revealed that 77% of employers believe school leavers business awareness was either poor or very poor. And more than half of FSB's members have called for greater emphasis on employability skills in schools.

The report also showed the apprenticeship programme has been stretched to include functional skills that help make up for failings in the education system. It suggests this undermines the confidence of businesses in apprenticeships and, significantly, creates a 'poor image of apprenticeships' in the eyes of teachers, school leavers and parents.The report stated: "The Government has failed to articulate a clear definition of what constitutes an apprenticeship.

"For too long businesses have been left on the sidelines as they are not in charge of the funding that the apprenticeship receives. To address these issues, the FSB recommends:


  • Giving businesses the autonomy to draw down funding and buy what the apprenticeship needs and not what the provider wants to deliver. Once businesses are in control of training, their perception of and participation in apprenticeships will improve.
  • Government should work with employers to produce an agreed definition of an apprenticeship so that everyone knows what they are. 
  • Functional skills should be removed as a core element of the apprenticeship. Business expects functional skills such as numeracy and literacy, to be delivered in schools.


John Walker, national chairman, FSB, said: "Research has shown that eight out of 10 small firms believe school leavers are not ready for the world of work.

"There is a role for schools to provide employability skills before pupils leave full-time education. All young people need to be offered a variety of work experience opportunities during full-time education and have a good level of work-related learning."

David Barlow, training and development director at electrical training firm, Barlows UK, said: "Apprenticeships provide a great opportunity to bring enthusiastic young people in to a business and train them with the skills that exactly meet the organisation's needs.

"Apprentices are a true asset to the workforce and I passionately believe more employers should hire them."

The results of the FSB online survey are based on the responses of 2,744 memebers of the FSB.

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Is this supposed to be news?

Graham Mills 11 Jan 2013

Everyone apart from the Teachers, their Unions and the Labour Party know that our children have been failed by the education system.

Ever ready or never ready?

Peter Rimmer 11 Jan 2013

In the whole of my lifetime, and that's quite a long time, school-leavers have never been 'ready' to start work according to employers. In my grammar school we learned very little about the world of work - a visit to a coalmine to reinforce the need to study hard 'or else' was about the measure of it. Education is to educate and work is to engage; in between there is a coming together, a transition. Schools and employers need to work together; it is a joint responsibility not for the good of schools or for the sake of employers but for the future good of our young people.

@Peter Rimmer

Tom Toher 11 Jan 2013

You are absolutely spot on. This is the same nonsense that people come out with as if there has ever been a golden age of anything. People also forget that there used to be more Saturday/Sunday and summer jobs about for teenagers, which do prepare youngsters for the world of work far better than any school. Universities don't do that either. It is not their function anyway.

Give something back

Safia Boot 11 Jan 2013

Perhaps one way employers can help is to encourage their staff to mentor a young person - check out the mentoring scheme 'Steps Ahead' launched by the CIPD in partnership with Job CentrePlus (see to encourage HR professionals to sign up to the mentor scheme. Its everyone's responsibility (parents, employers, colleagues, neighbours, etc as well as schools and universities) to help our young people get the skills and shape the right attitudes for the world of work otherwise long term we risk ending up with employees with the 'can't be bothered' attitude that helps no one.

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