Young people are our future and businesses play a vital role in providing them with an insight into the working world.
Lauren Brown (pictured) discusses a synergised approach to ensure businesses are engaged in helping school leavers to have unrestricted access to the workplace. Recently, I attended an internship presentation morning with a local technology employer and heard all about the experiences of two young school pupils who, as ‘interns’, were just coming to the end of their 4-week spell in the workplace. According to them, the experience was not only eye-opening, it was life changing!
This really struck a chord with me.
The internship forms part of a bigger picture for both individuals, who are each being mentored as part of the Career Ready programme. However, with regards to the internship itself, the pupils spoke very eloquently about the practical skills that they had developed in that 4-week period; they talked about their increased confidence, their improved communication skills and their increased motivation. They also mentioned how they now feel more able to converse with adults, and despite being nervous at the outset, it was clear that their experience had helped to create two very confident communicators, willing to absorb and embrace the challenges that lie ahead of them.
One of the comments that I found most interesting, however, was their honesty about the working world, both noting that work was a completely different environment to school. They talked about how the 9am-5pm working day – although enjoyable- was much more tiring than they would have expected.
Whilst none of the above is surprising, what these presentations brought home to me was the importance of creating opportunities for young people to engage with local employers while they are still at school.
Of course, educational institutions and other providers can educate young people about the world of work, but it is a business responsibility to engage with schools and provide a true education in work-based skills. This does, of course, help the young people to succeed, but it also benefits businesses when it comes to recruiting a talented future workforce. It’s an investment in the future of the business, as well as in the future of the young person who is about to embark on their career journey.
Indeed, it is vitally important that businesses play their part in educating the future workforce. Without this dialogue, many young people - who are equipped with a wide range of skills that employers are looking for - may struggle to reach their full potential locally and could move out of the area, which can also have a negative impact on the local community.
Yet, it is not uncommon to hear commentary on how young people are not prepared for the working world. According to a recent British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) survey, 88% of businesses felt that school leavers are unprepared for the workplace, and 54% think graduates are not work ready. A further 57% stated that young people are lacking the basic ‘soft’ skills that are required in the workplace, such as communication and team working.
It begs the question, if the business community is thinking along these lines, what steps are these employers taking to effect the required change? A smart, successful business should be channelling its energies into finding a talented future workforce and that means engaging with local schools and colleges. It’s a transformative approach and the benefits are too innumerable to mention.
According to John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, “This isn’t about pointing the finger at young people – it is a joint responsibility between businesses, the education system and government to provide the right skills and support that young people need to make it in the world of work.”
So, what does this joint responsibility mean in practise?
In Scotland, the Government’s Youth Employment Strategy is a 7-year programme which builds on the foundations of the existing Curriculum for Excellence. The Youth Employment Strategy summarises the ambitions for councils, schools and their partners, and challenges both educators and employers to play a key role in preparing our young people more effectively for the workplace.
A key recommendation which has been implemented since the publication of the strategy is the introduction of industry-led Regional Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Groups, small project teams who actively work in their local areas to strengthen business links with education and create meaningful opportunities for young people.
Translating this into day-to-day reality involves a wealth of activity and communication between the DYW teams, educators, employers, councils and partners to create opportunities that bring benefit to all parties. Of course, it is not always an easy balance to strike given the multiple priorities within each organisation, but it is only with sustained efforts from all parties that we will drive the step change required to ensure every young person moves in to a positive destination.
This is not just about informing young people of all the options open to them – from university and college courses to Apprenticeships and jobs – but it is also about employers bringing the world of work to life for young people, something that isn’t feasible without direct industry involvement.
Time and resource are conscious considerations for any educational establishment or employer who seek to get involved in DYW activity. However, the DYW teams work hard to communicate with both parties to come up with a tailored, mutually beneficial agreement.
From businesses coming in to the classroom for a 50-minute period to up-skill pupils about their industry, to pupils getting out of the classroom and visiting local businesses to contextualise their learning; from mentoring young people to offering work placements, there are many ways businesses can get involved in supporting with business skills development.
Furthermore, DYW are facilitating opportunities to “influence the influencers”, with a range of businesses inviting groups of teachers, careers advisors and other partners into their workplace to tell them all about their industry, the opportunities, the skills required and the career paths available.
After all, who better to educate than the educators who have such an impact on our young people?