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Finished With School, But Not Ready For Work – Are We Educating a Generation of NEETs?

Qualifications alone are not enough to ensure the employability of young people, says Kirstie Mackey – so how can schools help bridge the gap between education and the workplace?

  • Finished With School, But Not Ready For Work – Are We Educating a Generation of NEETs?

One of the many interesting things about speaking to educators and school leaders around the country while running the Barclays LifeSkills programme is the opportunity to hear from teachers first-hand about their concerns for the next generation.

From these conversations, it is apparent that despite all the progress that has been made on careers support, many young people are still leaving education without being ready to cope with the ever-changing world of work. In fact, recent research from the Barclays LifeSkills report “How employable is the UK?” found that just 6 percent of teachers believe that their students leave school with the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.

These skills, from leadership to adaptability, have been identified by experts such as the World Economic Forum as becoming more essential in the workplace as automation increases and candidates with strong ‘human’ skills are more and more in demand. However, despite them becoming more important, our research found that nearly 60 per cent of the UK’s workforce lacks all of the necessary skills to succeed in the future workplace.

The impact of this employability skills gap will not only delay young people from achieving their potential, it’s also a disadvantage to the wider UK economy to have a future workforce that isn’t prepared for working life. For this reason, it is in the interest of educators, Government and businesses to work together to ensure young people are given high-quality careers education and the opportunity to strengthen the transferable skills they will need to thrive in the 21st Century jobs landscape.

Bridging the gap between education and workplaces

If we are to ensure that all young people have the right skills and attitude to succeed in their chosen career, we need to give them the opportunity to develop these skills before they leave education. Yet our research has shown that nearly a quarter of educators (22 percent) don’t think their institution is effective in developing employability skills for pupils.

To tackle this, first of all, we need a curriculum that helps bridge the gap between education and the workplace.

To have the biggest impact, the opportunity to build key employability skills needs to be woven throughout traditional academic learning. That might involve looking at problem-solving techniques during a maths lesson or building in an element of proactivity to homework tasks.

Implementing this whole-school approach needn’t be something that creates extra work for already overstretched teachers. Since September 2018, all schools and colleges have a dedicated careers lead. These career leads can make quick wins by finding ways to weave transferable employment skills throughout the curriculum.

Collaboration between educators and employers

It is clear that schools and colleges have an important role to play in helping young people graduate with employability skills as well as academic ones, but they cannot do it alone.

Businesses can and should do more to make sure that the next-generation workforce has the right skills to meet the challenges of the future. They understand the needs of employers better than anyone whilst also have the resources and expertise to deliver informed advice to schools and teachers about the skills young people will need once they leave education.

Our research found, for example, while employers emphasised the importance of leadership skills, and the difficulties they faced recruiting suitably skilled staff to their organisations, when educators were asked which employability skills would become extremely important, leadership skills were at the bottom of the list.

Contact with businesses through work experience and practical sessions can help pupils to develop these crucial employability skills, as well as really driving it home what employers will expect from job candidates. According to figures from Education and Employers, young people are 86 per cent less likely to become NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) if they experience four or more contacts with employers before leaving education.

By increasing collaboration between businesses and educators and implementing a ‘whole-school’ approach to employability skills, we can drastically improve how prepared our young people are for work.

Kirstie Mackey is Head of LifeSkills created with Barclay

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