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Universities not preparing young people for work

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The British Chamber of Commerce has called for a rethink of the education system

Four in 10 (41%) businesses say universities are not very effective or not effective at all at preparing young people for work, according to research from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

The survey of more than 3,500 business and education leaders revealed that just 24% of businesses think secondary schools are either very effective or fairly effective at preparing young people for work, with 69% saying secondary schools are not very effective or not effective at all.

John Longworth, BCC director general, described businesses and schools as being “worlds apart” when it comes to getting young people ready for the workplace.

“Businesspeople across the UK believe that secondary schools need to do more to help young people transition into employment by ensuring that their students have the preparation businesses truly value,” he said.

“High youth unemployment and skills gaps are a cause for national embarrassment. Unless ministers allow schools to increase their focus on preparing students for the working world and businesses step up and do more to engage, inform and inspire, we could fail an entire generation of young people.”

The researchers found that businesses want careers guidance reforms to include work experiences (64%), encounters with employers and employees (62%), and curriculum learning linked to careers (45%).

City & Guilds managing director Kirstie Donnelly agreed with the BCC’s suggestions that workplace skills must be embedded in learning.

“We particularly support putting local businesses at the heart of careers guidance, and believe government must work together with schools, colleges, and businesses to ensure the education system is better able to facilitate these all-important employer interactions,” she said.

“As the comprehensive spending review edges closer I'd urge the government to consider the relative success highlighted in [the BCC's] report of the FE sector in preparing young people for work.”