In a recent report by Ofsted, it was revealed that a significant amount of students are being left unprepared for the workplace due to inadequate resources and a lack of emphasis on work-related learning. 

Without this being effectively introduced at school, we are setting pupils up to fail, meaning that more than 80 per cent of them will require "significant training" before being put to work (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants). The research also stated that the top areas of weakness for new recruits are people skills and business skills, followed by technical skills. So what can be done to close the gap?

Here, Iain Bell, managing director at MINTclass, discusses the importance of local businesses working closely with schools to ensure students are getting the right opportunities while also benefitting employers. 

The focus of education is constantly shifting and with the ever-evolving technological advancements, it comes as no surprise that we are trying to prepare the next generation of students for jobs that don’t even exist yet. 

What we should be concentrating on however, is presenting students with the right opportunities to develop a range of transferrable skills which will allow them to adapt and thrive in a wide variety of environments. 

Despite these transferrable skills being known as ‘soft skills’, in truth, they are far from it. Alongside academic rigour, communication, collaboration, adaptability, resilience, and critical thinking are just some of the skills that students need to flourish in society. The best way to ensure they do this, is to provide them with a flavour of the opportunities that await them post-education. 

Getting students to spend time in real businesses and introducing them to routine tasks will better equip them and give them a deeper understanding of what is required in areal-world work environment, and how best to prepare for it.  

Collaboration with local businesses

As part of the Ofsted report, inspectors found that a majority of schools did not consider work-related education important and had weak links with local businesses. Thisinevitably has had an impact on students who may not understand how their skills and experiences fit with future job opportunities and therefore, leave school without the skills, knowledge or confidence to help them decide which path to follow.

At the Conservative Party Conference in October, Justine Greening announced, “British business is the ultimate opportunity giver. I want to see businesses spotting and polishing up the talent of a new generation”. 

With this in mind, it’s imperative for schools to recognise the importance of forming strong relationships with local businesses to not only benefit the students, but also the employers themselves. It should be a case of identifying the skills that each student has, and deciding how they can be used to help or enhance a business, rather than simply looking at what employers can offer students. 

Generally speaking, work experience is dependent on already established connections with friends of parents helping their children get a foot in the door, rather than establishing an idea of the career that a student would like to explore, and arranging a suitable match through the school’s career advisors. Due to this poor co-ordination between schools and businesses, Ofsted believes that disadvantaged children in particular are missing out on important opportunities and therefore, impacting their full potential. 

Along a similar vein, Alice Barnard, chief executive of the Edge Foundation added: “Giving schools the freedom to secure careers guidance is all very well, but there is dire need for schools to be given the tools and resources to engage with employers and ensure all young people have access to work experience and careers guidance, not just those who have the advantage of social capital.”

Can technology play a role in career guidance? 

Teaching and learning has been enriched through the use of technology over the last few years; therefore we should look to apply the same concept to career guidance and work experience placements. 

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all provide the capabilities to connect people, as well as promoting career opportunities. Therefore, technology should be utilised to connect schools and businesses more effectively, allowing schools to identify relevant placements, keep a closer eye on how students are performing, as well as ensuring businesses are receiving students that are motivated and willing to learn about their specific sector.

Giving students a non-biased, wide variety of opportunities through a specialised school portal will mean that every child is given a fair shot at gaining work experience, and theycan build expertise, skills and capabilities that can then be used across the job market. 

Allowing students to have their say is crucial; it’s their future after all. Getting them to build their own profiles and list all of their interests will make it easier for them to identify the businesses that match their capabilities. For example, if a student has a particular interest in animals, then perhaps a local veterinary practice would be best placed for them.  

Using a work experience portal means schools are able to view and manage every placement, while ensuring students are getting the most out of their experience. On top of this, any documentation between student and business can be stored centrally, helping to save on administration time. 

Prepping for the future

As Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector said, “The question of how well our school system is preparing young people for the world of work has never been more important.

“The future success and prosperity of the UK in a post- Brexit world will increasingly depend on our ability to harness home-grown talent and to encourage the creativity and innovation of our young people.”

Therefore, fostering these relationships now is essential to our students’ success when they come to compete in the job market. 

For more information on how MINTclass can provide schools with a work experience system, visit: https://www.mintclass.com/ or pop by stand F62 at Bett 2017, and see how they can help turn your classroom ideas into reality.

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