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Who takes responsibility for upskilling us all?

23rd May 2012

This morning there were 2 reports on the radio in quick succession about the need for the country to invest more in the national skills base. Two specific groups of workers were identified in recent reports: NEETS ( those aged 16-24 not in education, employment or training) and those aspiring to work in manufacturing.

The Work Foundation's report on how to help more NEETS into work concludes that nearly half of them leave school with no work experience at all and largely lacking the "soft skills" demanded by the big employers of young people in the modern labour market: hospitality, retail and leisure. Manufacturers are also demanding higher skills levels from workers of any ages. Demands for higher skilled workers are all very laudable but how, when, and where are they going to gain these skills and crucially, who should fund this training?

Clearly everyone benefits from learning additional skills; the U.K., employers, customers, organisations, the Treasury and primarily, the individual worker. Consequently, all of these benficiaries should contribute to the time, effort and costs involved: everyone working today can point to different examples of having given, or been given, the time and resources to upskill at different points in their career. The problem lies in our current structures for launching young people into the workplace.

Every secondary school teacher I work with will tell you about today's crowded curriculum; each time an Education Secretary  has a bright idea about a new subject that pupils should be learning, no-one asks what should fall off the curriculum to make room. Most schools work hard  on work experience, however it still requires a huge effort from schools, pupils and parents to convince employers to give their time and resources to supporting youngsters in even a very brief spell of work experience.

Work experience takes time, effort and resources from employers, schools , pupils and parents and does give the young people a tremendous benefit at a time when they are struggling to identify what they really want to do to earn their living. Is it time for the government to step in with more focused help for employers to make it easier for them to give more generously of their time to work experience and enable schools to give more time to preparing young people for the world of work? Should we also be expecting the youngsters themselves to see more clearly the link between learning and employability?

I think I've just discovered the title of my next book for young people-  How to make yourself even more employable. 

   

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