Business steps into the classroom to close the skills gap

Employers across the country are stepping up their connections with schools and working with students to build job skills, and prepare them for the world of work, according to new research.

The Closing the Gap report by The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) highlights a significant increase in the level of business engagement in schools and colleges. The report found a narrowing of the gap between the number of young people meeting employers and the target of reaching all secondary and college students in England.

This shortfall is down by nearly half from 1.2 million to 700,000 in the last 18 months. Eighty per cent of young people are now benefiting from meeting employers every year and two thirds (66%) are gaining from work experience.

It means consistent and definitive progress is being made towards the overall target of four million young people meeting employers and one million having work experience every year.

The report echoes the findings of the CBI’s Education and Skills Survey which revealed that 94 per cent of businesses now have links with the education sector, with 56 per cent reporting an increased level of engagement with schools over the last year.

Major employers from multiple sectors are working with schools across the country to improve the employability skills of young people. Areas of disadvantage are among the best performing – tackling the issue of social mobility. Airbus, BAE Systems, Toyota, KPMG, Vodafone, JP Morgan, Easyjet, Pinewood, Aviva, Seddon and Willmott Dixon are among the many companies involved.

With Britain on the threshold of Brexit, there are clear signs that business is stepping up its efforts to develop a pipeline of homegrown talent and stepping in to help smooth the pathway from education to employment.

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, said: It is incredibly encouraging to see so many businesses coming together to deliver so much for their local communities. This Government has set out an ambitious vision for careers education. We want all young people to have regular, inspiring, meaningful interactions with the world of work.

“Achieving this will help businesses broaden and diversify their talent pipeline. But it’s also about inspiring young people, promoting social mobility and giving every young person the opportunity to succeed.”

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the CBI said: “Businesses of all sizes, across many different sectors, are increasingly taking up the challenge to raise the aspirations, awareness, knowledge and skills of young people.

Employers are supporting schools and colleges at a local level and on a national scale. Businesses are mobilising for the future of work and the reason for this is clear; education is the number one driver of productivity, business competitiveness, and economic prosperity.

“The business community has an unmissable opportunity to enhance young people’s life chances, by preparing them for the world of work and opening their eyes to career options they may never have known existed. Connecting business leaders with schools makes a huge difference.”

John Yarham, Interim Chief Executive of The Careers & Enterprise Company, said: Meeting employers and experiencing the world of work is fundamental to improving choice and opportunity for our young people. That is why it is now at the heart of careers education and hard-wired into the new world-class standards operating nationwide.

“With research showing the death of the Saturday job and dearth of part time work for young people in education, careers education is now of even more paramount importance in connecting the next generation with the skills, attitudes and effectiveness needed to thrive in the workplace. I would like to pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of the business community who are working in partnership with schools and colleges and making a real difference to the lives of young people in communities across the country – lifting aspiration and opportunity.

“We are still on a journey to ensure every young person is receiving the careers education and guidance they need to make the best possible start to their working lives. There is clear determination among employers, educators and partners in local communities to continue our work together to close the gap.”

Gary Woodman, Chief Executive of Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, added:” Worcestershire is one of the areas of the country that has made the most progress according to the Closing the Gap report which highlights the growing number of businesses engaging with schools. As the partnership is leading the work with every school across the county we should be immensely proud of the efforts by businesses, volunteer advisors and our local educators to achieve this outcome.  There is still more that can be done and I would encourage all businesses in the county to add their support today to help provide long term meaningful benefits to young people and inspire their future workforce by getting involved with their local school / college or the University.”

More than half of all schools and colleges (56%) are now fully achieving the target for encounters with employers and nearly half (49%) are meeting the target for work experience – clearly demonstrating the value of business involvement with education.