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Secondary school pupils 'not ready for work'

BCC survey says businesses and schools 'still worlds apart' on readiness for work

Posted by Stephanie Broad | November 12, 2015 | People, policy, politics

Two-thirds of businesses (69%) believe that secondary schools are not effective at preparing young people for work, according to a major new UK-wide survey of over 3,500 business and education leaders published by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), just hours before the latest national employment figures are published. 

Business leaders surveyed think that secondary schools could do more to help students get on the career ladder - with three key actions needed to bridge the gap between the worlds of education and work: 

  • Embed key skills for work in the curriculum. The top five entry level skills that firms value most are communication (88%), literacy (69%), numeracy (64%), computer literacy (56%) and teamwork (53%). 
  • Hold lessons around recruitment and interview techniques. Most businesspeople think schools should teach students how to conduct themselves in an interview (78%), demonstrate transferable skills (54%) and communicate lessons learned from work experience (46%).
  • Put direct contact with local businesses at the heart of careers guidance. Firms think careers advice should include workplace experiences (64%), encounters with employers and employees (62%), and link curriculum learning to careers (45%).

With youth unemployment rates still stubbornly three times the overall unemployment rate, the BCC is calling for action not just from ministers and schools - but also from businesses, more of whom need to work with local schools to plug skills gaps and help young people make a successful transition from education to work.

Commenting, John Longworth, BCC Director General, said: “Our latest research shows that businesses and schools are still worlds apart when it comes to getting young people ready for the world of work. 

“Businesspeople across the UK believe that secondary schools need to do more to help young people transition into employment by ensuring that their students have the preparation that businesses truly value.

“High youth unemployment and business skills gaps are a cause for national embarrassment. Unless ministers allow schools to increase their focus on preparing students for the working world and businesses step up and do more to engage, inform and inspire, we could fail an entire generation of young people.

“It doesn’t need to be like this. Preparing students to face potential employers should be given the same level of priority as academic achievement in schools across the UK.”

Chamber Member, All Saints Academy Plymouth was awarded Career Ready Status in 2006 by the national Charity UK Career Academy Foundation and has close working relationships with businesses to provide opportunities for its students.

Sixth form students from The Career Ready programme (previously The Career Academy) at All Saints Academy Plymouth (ASAP), the only one of its kind in the whole of Devon and Cornwall, recently hosted a ‘thank you’ event for members of the local business community who supported them throughout the programme.


Career Ready students studying Business and Personal Finance welcomed an eclectic mix of local employers to ASAP for the breakfast event to share their Career Ready experiences and formally acknowledge the role that their mentors, internship supervisors and masterclass hosts have played in propelling them from school to workplace.


The event was attended by ASAP’s many local business partners and employers who, over the course of the year, provide a mix of intrinsic ‘employability support’, a mentor who shares their expertise and experience as well as a six week paid internship enabling students to apply their knowledge in a real operating environment. They also provide a range of curricular enhancements from masterclasses, visits and seminars to ‘real’ networking events and experiences that provide an insight into the world of work, an understanding of business culture or workplace etiquette.

All Saints Academy Plymouth was awarded Career Ready status by the national charity UK Career Academy Foundation in 2006.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “we welcome further work by the BCC on the skills children are being taught to prepare them for work. NAHT wholeheartedly supports programmes to get young people thinking about their future employment, but this can’t just be left to secondary schools alone. 

“This is why we helped set up Primary Futures; a scheme which gets people from different careers into schools to talk about what they do. This helps inspire a new generation of children, and doesn’t see careers planning as an added extra or something to think about just before leaving school.

“We’ve continually stressed that careers advice should be appropriately resourced and of a high standard in order to help pupils get the best out of their school choices. The BCC’s work adds further weight to this call.”

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