Employers must close skills gap between work and school


Er, no - it's the job of the Education sector (mostly teachers) to provide the education that young people will need. This article merely throws into sharp relief the fact that teachers are again ...

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Employers must do more to stop young people missing out on work opportunities due to not having the right skills, Business in the Community (BITC) has said

BITC found that many people who have been in employment did not learn skills at school that they feel would have been useful in their working lives.

Top of the list of skills they wish they'd been taught were computing and coding skills (30% of respondents), followed by leadership and teamwork (29%), seeking out opportunities and aiming high (28%), thinking positively (27%) and problem-solving (25%).

Among 18- to 24-year-olds who have been in employment many of these figures were higher. Thirty-nine per cent wanted to be taught computing skills and 31% wanted to learn more about thinking positively, while 22% wished they’d been taught more creativity (compared to 17% overall).

The research also showed that there is a strong appetite for employers to do more to help young people develop the skills needed for their future careers. Sixty-two per cent of people thought businesses should offer more work experience to young people, while 57% wanted employers to run practical sessions in schools.

To tackle this skills gap issue, BITC and the Prince’s Responsible Business Network are launching a campaign calling on employers to increase activities that will help develop these skills.

The campaign, called ‘If Only’, has three calls to action for employers. These are: running activities that help young people develop skills; using a common language on skills so that young people, teachers and employers can work together to prepare young people for work; and sharing stories of missed opportunities due to skills shortages on social media.

BITC said that the campaign will highlight the opportunities missed through not enough workplace skills being taught at school, and will focus on what businesses can do to close the gap between skills learned at school and vocational skills.

Rachael Saunders, education campaign director at BITC, said it is important that young people are provided with the skills needed to tackle the business challenges ahead.

“This research suggests that while recent school leavers are more likely to have been taught skills such as computing and resilience at school, they are simply not learning enough of these skills to thrive in their future careers," she said. "In a rapidly-changing global business environment it is vital that all young people, particularly those facing social disadvantage, can reach their full potential and lead successful working lives."

Saunders added that, while many employers are reaching out to young people, more could be done. “The only way to close the gap between skills learned at school and skills needed for work is by employers playing a key role to work with schools and support teachers in helping young people develop the skills they need for work. While many businesses are already doing great work in this area there is still more to be done.”

The campaign will also feature business leaders discussing what they wish they’d learned at school that would have been useful in their future careers, and what their organisation is doing to help support young people. Companies featured so far include UBS, Siemens UK, Hogan Lovells, McKinsey, BP and KPMG.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov. The total sample size was 2,097 adults, of which 1,986 have worked at some point.


Great article Rachel. Connecting the changing needs of today’s employers with the way young people are being prepared for working life, makes perfect sense. It supports the transition from education into any new job, provides new starters with a greater understanding of the language of work, helps staff to make a valuable contribution at the earliest possible stage and enables all employees to fully realise their long-term potential. However, there is growing concern that the continued emphasis on formal academic outcomes, could be at odds with this intention and as a result there may be a risk of overlooking the specific skills and approaches required to ensure that the next generation succeed in employment. Evidence from The Prince’s Trust’s Results for Life (2017) report demonstrates that young people don’t feel fully equipped to enter the workforce. In the survey, 43 per cent of final year students said they felt ill-prepared for work, and lacked the adaptive skills required to prosper. When asked why they believed such skills were important, 62 per cent of young people said that they believed developing ‘softer’ life skills would help them get a job. This appetite to extend capability around some of the most transferable work skills was strongly supported by teaching staff with a staggering 91 per cent of tutors recognising that schools and colleges should be doing much more to help their students to develop these skills. The British Chamber of Commerce has also called on businesses to take on more responsibility in addressing gaps in young people’s skills and experience levels. This echoes the concerns of The Prince’s Trust, who have discovered that once new starters are up and running in a new role, nearly three quarters of them still feel unprepared for their chosen career. In a world in which access to information is freely available at the touch of a smartphone, the value of passing memory-based exams quickly becomes less relevant. There is a growing gap between what employers see as valuable and what young people are prizing upon leaving education. Many institutions are of course working hard to address this issue, with a greater emphasis on work placements and ongoing assessment techniques. However, the language used by employers to describe the elements of effective performance at work remains unfamiliar to the majority of young people, who still need to develop their understanding of what is expected of them and then be able to describe these requirements in contextual terms. With more people expected to undertake a greater number of job roles in their lifetime, developing the adaptive skills which are likely to be attractive to employers may well accelerate entry into new positions and increase opportunities for job movement.


Er, no - it's the job of the Education sector (mostly teachers) to provide the education that young people will need. This article merely throws into sharp relief the fact that teachers are again failing in their jobs. Don't expect employers to do their jobs for them.


Er, no. Teachers are doing a great job under pressure to generate academic results. Our experience is that employer/education links work best where there is a win/win partnership - with employers and teachers sticking to their respective roles and expertise. Dozens of case studies show this works in practice.

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