School leavers: fit for purpose?



Bemoaning falling standards among younger generations has long been a popular past time. Even Socrates was not above grumbling that ‘children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise’. He is said to have made those comments around 2500 years ago and the intergenerational carping has not stopped since.

Having reached an age where my bus pass is closer than my Young Person’s Railcard, this blogger takes a great deal of pleasure from sniping at the haircuts, attention span and half mast waistbands of today’s youth. It’s enjoyable but, obviously, it’s also petty and driven by jealousy.

However, while my grumblings may be mean spirited, perhaps employers have real cause for complaint. In the week in which many GCSE students are receiving their results (accompanied by the traditional hand-wringing articles about grade inflation and/or falling educational standards), a study by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) finds that eight in ten businesses don't believe school leavers are ready for work and say more should be done to help prepare them for employment.

According to the survey, 59 per cent of survey respondents who already employ 16 to 17-year-olds reported that their young employees had poor literacy skills. Numeracy was also judged to be poor by 55 per cent and 56 per cent said communication skills fell short.

Of the 2,774 survey respondents that employ 16 to 17-year-olds, 77 per cent also found that school leavers' general business awareness was poor.

John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said:

‘Businesses are more than ready to invest time and money training staff in job-related skills, but expect them to come with at least the basics. It is a concern that businesses have again highlighted numeracy, literacy and core workplace skills, such as communication, as major problems.

‘These are the skills with which young people need to be equipped with to be successful in today's tough jobs market. We want to see schools give these skills a higher priority by embedding them in all teaching from an early stage. All schools should be offering work experience to their pupils and engaging with local small businesses to ensure that young people are getting the work-related learning that they need.’

What do Vistage members think? If you employ school leavers, are they properly equipped to contribute to your business or organisation? If not, what can be done about it?

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