Employers must close skills gap between work and school

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.