The great employability debate

The great employability debate

Government choices

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has been in the press in the last few weeks, with her statement around promotion of opportunities to young people:

“As part of our commitment to extend opportunity to all young people, we want to level the playing field – making sure they are aware of all the options open to them and are able to make the right choice for them.”

This follows the Prime Minister’s announcement in January 2016, of a commitment of £70 million to transform the quality of careers education, advice and guidance offered to young people, and whilst there’s no firm date in place for this to come in, we welcome the thought that young people will be gaining more balanced advice when it comes to the opportunities on offer to them.

Employers, government and education

We spent time recently at the Warwickshire Skills Conference for business and education leaders – sat on a table with a councilor, a council employee and a Head Teacher.

While these initiatives to bring education and employers closer together are essential, all players responsible for enhancing employability are still a long way apart.

Probably not the point of this blog to get involved in overtly political debate, but it was interesting to see that the government’s education agenda causes frustration for both employers and schools.

Schools and FE colleges themselves are under-resourced when it comes to careers, and some of the responses coming out of them aren’t a good fit with enhancing employment for all (see below).

And employers are completely under represented at events like these, where they have the opportunity to make a difference.

An employability anecdote

We’ve just launched a recruitment campaign for a Higher Apprenticeship programme with a construction business, and we’re really keen to get into schools and colleges in the vicinity of the vacancies, in order to raise awareness and promote the roles.

The programme itself is really fantastic – a thorough and detailed training plan in place as well as funding provided for study up to Honours degree level.  It’s a great opportunity for anyone looking for an ‘earn while you learn’ package, and a strong alternative to the traditional University route post-A Level.

However, speaking to several colleges we‘ve been really surprised at their reticence to promote the opportunity, fundamentally down to the fact that they aren’t the associated learning provider for this client. Therefore if there’s no potential funding available they won’t let us talk to their students.

And we had a similar shock talking to local schools. One of them told us in no uncertain terms that the programme was not appropriate for their school “All of our students go to University” we were told!

Our employability suggestions

So to continue the debate, we have the following observations/ suggestions to make:

  • Start careers education with teachers (as recommended by the Headmaster of a Warwickshire based school)

Careers advisers cannot cover all angles. Schools should organise local employers to come and talk firstly to teachers, and then subsequently to students, so that all teachers at a school can support students with their career choices.

  • Get parents involved

An obvious absence at the Warwickshire debate was any parental input. Kids only spend about 1/3rd of their time at school – more should be done to engage parents.

  • Sort out funding so that schools and colleges aren’t only incentivised to promote certain training and learning opportunities

This seems obvious, but is no doubt more highly complicated. Something for Nicky Morgan to tackle perhaps?

  • Encourage more employers (particularly SMEs) to assist schools with pointing students in the right direction

Events like these and others that we attend, particularly those at schools, really struggle with the business contingent. While there are loads of initiatives to get employers in to schools, they are often underwhelmed.

Perhaps employers could be incentivised by reductions in National Insurance contributions for participation in employability schemes – contributing to the wealth of the country in non-financial ways.


What do you think? What are your views? Are we too negative in our views (there are some great employer/ schools stories out there too)?

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