A recent headline from the BBC reads: “School-leavers ‘lack essential workplace skills.’” While some of the missing skills included basic numeracy, the businesses surveyed cited other competencies such as interpersonal and technological skills as lacking among some 80 percent of young workers. The result is that businesses must provide new employees with costly and “significant training” therefore.
To some degree, this news also means that our education system must, in some ways, be failing our students. The reality is that being prepared for the workplace does not mean the same thing it used to mean. Gone is the industrial age that marked the 19th and 20th centuries. Young workers do not need to be prepared to work the assembly line in a factory. Instead, the modern techno-industrial age calls for knowledge-based skills, such as creativity, problem solving and the entrepreneurial spirit.
In my mind, too many schools just aren’t set up to provide this kind of 21st century preparatory education and it’s doing our young population a huge disservice. This ultimately points to potential structural and organisational culture issues that resist the changes already happening in favour of the status quo. However, the reality is that while businesses rely more and more heavily upon schools and academies to prepare young employees, there is no substitute for real-world training and experience.
The campaign director for an outreach charity that promotes responsible business noted that businesses have a big role to play in preparing school leavers for work.
Grace Manna was quoted by the BBC saying:
“From working in schools to help young people and teachers to understand what employers need, to offering new routes into work in the form of apprenticeships; there are many ways businesses can help to bridge the skills gap.”
There’s no argument here that students need to traditional skills such as numeracy and literacy. There is also no doubt that schools and academies have lots more work to do in terms of developing innovative education strategies that prepare young adults for the modern workplace. Still, schools and academies cannot bear the full responsibility for training school-leavers for the business world. Perhaps there is room for businesses and educators to work ever-closer together to ensure school-leavers have a well-rounded skill set, including real-world experience, that will set them up for long-term professional and entrepreneurial success.