Mismatch between education and work has reached crisis point

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Written by Jim Carrick-Birtwell on 12 May 2014 in Opinion
Opinion

Employers want to connect to young people. They are all prepared to get stuck in and work collectively to help young people understand the skills that are in demand

The mismatch between the world of education and the world of work has reached a point where the zeitgeist suggests that it is at social-crisis levels. There is a desperate need to take action now to connect these worlds.
 
The elephant in the room is that poor career provision isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s always been pretty poor for everyone, everywhere.
 
The UK has tacitly conspired to equate the often-inappropriate route into higher education as the only socially acceptable way for young people to be guided by the educational system. Something needs to change.
 
Leaders need to collaborate to engage and inspire young people now so that we succeed in producing enough young talent here in the UK.
Making the transition from education to employment is one of the hardest moves you ever make. For those who come come from a disadvantaged background and don’t have role models who work, it’s almost impossible to navigate their way.
 
The most insidious, and socially divisive element of the status quo in recent decades has been the unspoken truth – ‘get 3 A levels and a degree or, good luck’. Vocational qualifications have been significantly devalued, and lack the social standing that would position them as an aspirational endeavour. A McKinsey report, From Education to Employment, in 2012, highlights that only in Germany do vocational pathways have the same social standing as higher education routes. 
 
While the world of work evolves at rapid speed, 75 million young people around the globe are unemployed. Turning to the UK, youth unemployment blights more than one million 16- to 25 year-olds and, paradoxically, employers report chronic skills shortages for key skills. A social crisis is in progress. The war for talent has hit desperate times and the issue of poor careers guidance has moved centre stage, as a strategic imperative for business and society.
 
Again, the smart people at McKinsey confirm what a lot of other recent reports tell us. They frame the paradox of a global youth unemployment problem, and yet employers are reporting key skills shortages. Let’s look at both sides of this mismatch.
 
Employers lack confidence in the skills system
More than two-fifths (45 per cent) of employers said that it was very or quite difficult to find the right member staff for a position, according to a CBI Education and Skills survey. Moreover, 43 per cent of employers were dissatisfied with school leavers’ knowledge of their chosen career path with a suggestion that children are not being given a realistic picture of the world of work.
 
Not surprisingly, as a result of these future talent challenges research by Deloitte showed that 90 per cent employers spoken to agreed that they should play a role in providing careers advice to young people.
 
Employers want to connect to young people. They are all prepared to get stuck in and work collectively to help young people understand the skills that are in demand. 
 
Young people want better careers advice – they want employers to be more involved and from a young age
The Deloitte research shows that 95 per cent of young people would like employers to be more involved in providing information about careers and jobs.  Their research also showed that 60 per cent of young people choose career advice, work experience or employment skills when asked what things education should focus on to prepare for a chosen career and that half feel careers advice is not working for them currently. In addition, 71 per cent would like careers advice to start from age 11 (year 7).
 
Ofsted is starting to evaluate the quality of careers guidance and provision in schools, with teachers to be measured on the results of career placements after pupils leave education.
 
This is creating a ‘perfect storm’. Currently, teachers are under pressure and time starved. As a free marketplace, schools can be approached by many careers providers but teachers have no idea if they are charlatans or not. There’s a need for leadership in this space. What young people, teachers and employers all want is an efficient marketplace for careers advice. Because it’s never existed, most people find it hard to imagine what a sustainable solution might look like.
About the author

Jim Carrick-Birtwell is CEO of plotr, a careers inspiration platform

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