A new CBI report published today reveals the views of business about all matters education and skills. But what does it tell us about the business contribution to education and skills?
First, a large and growing number of businesses are building links with schools and colleges. Of the employers surveyed – big and small– nearly three quarters had links of this kind. And more than half of these have increased their links in the year before.
You might wonder why businesses want to know what goes on in schools. Actually, it is as much in the interests of businesses as of teachers, parents and young people themselves that the years spent at school provide a good preparation for the world of work. For example, equipping young people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to get fulfilling and well-paid jobs and to progress in work and life.
CBI research finds that employers will need more and more recruits with high level skills. But they are not confident they can find the people they need as it is, and don’t expect things to improve in the future. Many don’t think that the education system is preparing school leavers with the skills and attitudes that they need to be successful.
The CBI believes that one of the biggest problems is careers advice. More than three quarters of businesses think it is not good enough – and it never has been. Teachers shouldn’t be blamed for this – they can’t be expected to be experts on all the job possibilities that lie beyond the school gates, or on how young people can best prepare themselves for life beyond school. A good system needs great careers professionals, but crucially it also needs the input of employers.
Lots of businesses have recognised this and are forging links with schools. It’s no use complaining from the side-lines – the CBI is calling on businesses to communicate what they are looking for and why, and inspire ambition in young people to pursue different career pathways. They can help in many ways, for example through providing work experience, giving talks and careers advice, supporting science or maths teaching, or encouraging employees to become student mentors or school governors.
If businesses want jobs and prosperity to keep on growing, we cannot afford to let the shortcomings of our education and skills systems drag us down or fail our young people. And if businesses see problems that are holding back growth and productivity, the CBI is arguing that they need to become part of the solution.