If Businesses Want Business-Ready School Leavers, They Need to Start by Doing Something Themselves

Posted on October 2, 2014 at 12:49 pm by Native Consultancy

 Another week and another survey is out highlighting just how ill-prepared young people are for the workplace.

This one is from the British Chambers of Commerce.

In its press release which talks about the need to “break away from the blame game” it blames “successive governments for failing to properly equip young people for future careers”, voices the view from businesses that young people are basically too wet behind the ears to be given a job and laments that the education system is failing to provide job-ready candidates.

Apart from making the case for change by blaming other people, there is so much wrong with what the BCC has to say about young people that it is hard to know where to start, but I’ll have a go.

The first point to make is around the basic premise of the BCC’s position: that the job of the education system is to provide skilled people for business owners.

It isn’t and it never has been. The education system is there to turn out people with the skills – intellectual and technical – to move forward in their life whether that is the public sector, private sector or in a completely different field.

The second problem I have with the BCC’s argument is its allocation of blame. While it laments the role of educators and government, their own survey finds that over half of businesses don’t bother to offer work experience.

If businesses need young talent to thrive then they need work out how they identify and nurture the right people themselves. They should also do more to engage with the education establishments which will provide that talent and not wait for someone to do it for them.

Bleating about the problem without contributing to the solution is not a credible or tenable position.

The third issue we must talk about is the kind of narrative the BCC and others are creating around young people and how this impacts on them.

Many of the 16-24 year-olds I speak to are highly motivated and have a clear idea about what they want to offer a prospective employer.

The problem is that employers do their very best alienate them. This is partly because of the Victor Melodrow-like utterances about their uselessness which come from places like the BCC and partly because so many employers have no idea how to use the new skills they can offer.

The idea, as the BCC suggests, that hiring and training a young person is a ‘risk’ or a distraction for a business owner is so ridiculous it is nearly comical.

The big problem with the young talent pool in the UK is not a lack of it. The real issue is the outdated and uncreative approach of employers who seemingly can’t be bothered to think for themselves about what they need to do to get the right people into their business.

So, right though it is for the BCC to focus on the issue, if it wants to run a campaign which makes a difference to its members in the future, it should start by asking them to pull their fingers out and do more to make the most of the many fantastically talented people who come from our excellent education system.

Richard Edwards, Director, Native Consultancy