Low skills levels are hitting job prospects for young people, says survey

Apr 28, 2013


Their inability to communicate effectively and their general attitude is also hindering their career prospects, say business leaders.
They have called on the government to support the campaign to improve basic English and maths skills among teenagers and school leavers.
The difficulties faced by employers in recruiting suitably skilled young people may be a factor in why the number of apprenticeships started between August last year and January fell by 11,500, says the report by Cranfield researchers and online learning provider learndirect.
The study entitled Nurturing Talent: Building the Workforce of the Future outlines how more needs to be done to promote the value of vocational education and the vital role employers should play in this.
Yet, despite their concerns over skills shortages, 70% of firms surveyed have taken no steps to address the skills shortages forecast over the next two decades.
Almost a third of the business leaders surveyed said English literacy and language skills among non-graduates aged under 25 was poor, while 21% said their maths abilities were insufficient for employment.
The inability of young people to communicate effectively was also cited by 25% of decision makers, while 28% said that the general attitude of young people was an issue.
Apprenticeships can play a huge part in helping to tackle the issue, the report says, but only 7pc of business leaders from companies employing apprentices found it easy to find suitable young people for the roles. 
Nevertheless, one in five businesses take on apprentices, of which a third say the schemes were effective in improving technical skills.
The report, launched at HR Development Conference, makes four recommendations:
  • The school curriculum should be reviewed to include work related learning, which will ensure young people are work-ready with the behaviours, attitudes and basic employability skills needed to thrive in work, including maths, English and ICT;
  • Schools should be obliged to provide impartial high-quality information, advice and guidance on careers and further education, including apprenticeships and traineeships;
  • Steps need to be taken to improve the status of vocational education and training;
  • Technology should be maximisedby extending its use beyond teaching and learning.
Business leaders have backed the apprenticeship scheme and the survey revealed that, increasingly, white collar professions are recruiting apprentices along with the traditional industries such as construction.
Around one in three believe the schemes are crucial for their talent pipeline and help with employee retention.
The report’s author Dr Emma Parry, Reader in Human Resource Management at Cranfield , said: “Apprenticeships are not just about helping employers to access the skills they need to be successful, although they can certainly do this. The evidence suggests the use of apprenticeships can also lead to improved employee morale, commitment and retention, lower recruitment costs and can also allow an organisation to develop a reputation as a good employer.”
Learndirect’s director of proposals and stakeholder management Deborah Rosado added“Like the government, employers recognise when done well, apprenticeships can equip firms with the skills they desperately need.
"However, if apprenticeships are to help businesses meet the changing needs of the UK economy, which was an important element of the Richard Review, young people should have the basic skills needed for work.”
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