The big story on the education front this week was the announcement of this year’s GCSE results. The headlines were dominated by the record fall in the number of A*-C grades awarded this year, the biggest fall in their 25 year history - down 1.3% on last year to 68.1%.
The media focused on the fall in top grades coming amid a major upheaval within the exam system, with a significant rise in the number of entries by 15-year-olds as well as tougher exams blamed for the dip in performance.
However, amidst the ongoing debate on exam grades and student performance, the fact remains that in a highly competitive job market, many employers remain concerned that young people lack adequate preparation for work.
Solid literacy and numeracy skills are still seen as essential by employers who responded to our recent Employment and Skills survey, with around half still feeling that school leavers are lacking in these areas, but academic performance is seen as only part of the story.
Getting young people ready for work
The Government’s planned overhaul of the GCSE exams is welcome as this may go some way to helping young people not only in basic skills but also in the development of the right skills that are so vital in the current job market, such as communication and problem solving skills, and a good attitude towards work.
Devoting more time to careers education, guidance, and work experience is an important way in which we can look to better prepare pupils for the workplace, increase their awareness of career options, and help them develop the employability skills they need to secure that first all important rung on the career ladder.
63% of our businesses felt a good attitude toward work was the most important trait they want to see in young people. Many businesses are already playing their part in wanting to work closely with schools to improve skills and teach pupils about the workplace, through involvement in a range of initiatives including ‘Young Enterprise’ or as school governors.
As a partner of Knutsford Academy’s Studio initiative, the Forum along with other employers including Barclays, Deloitte and Microsoft, is helping students to develop the skills valued by employers alongside their academic course work, through work-based activities developed and delivered in partnership with employers.
The Studio school in Cheshire is just one example of how schools are looking to deliver a more work-focused curriculum to meet the skills requirements of local employers.
The Forum is committed to promoting the benefits of engaging with schools by also offering work experience placements at our Cheshire-based head office and to helping find further placements in our members' businesses.
The youth job market shows no sign of getting any easier and it is essential that the government, schools and businesses work together to prepare pupils for the world of work.
Do school leavers have the right skills and attitude for work? Have your say in this week’s poll.