The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has today (Thursday) published findings from its Workforce Survey, Developing the Talents of the Next Generation. Results from the survey show that businesses overwhelmingly feel that many young people are not adequately prepared for the workplace upon leaving the education system.

Findings from the survey of almost 3,000 companies show that more than three-quarters (76%) report a lack of work experience as one of the key reasons young people are unprepared for work. Over half (57%) said that young people are lacking basic ‘soft’ skills, such as communication and team working, to succeed in the working world.

The BCC has made a number of recommendations to better prepare young people for work and to encourage businesses to play a greater role in preparing the next generation of workers. This includes universal work experience in all secondary schools, and assessing schools, colleges and universities on the employment outcomes of their pupils, rather than just exam results.

Key findings from the survey:

  • 88% of businesses believe school leavers are unprepared for the world of work, in comparison to 54% of businesses that think graduates are unprepared for the workplace.
  • More than three quarters of firms (76%) believe a lack of work experience is the reason young people are unprepared for work.
  • However, more than half of businesses (52%) say they don’t offer work experience placements.
  • Reasons for this include cost and time (25%), too much school admin (23%) and a lack of information (22%).
  • 60% of firms that offer work experience said ‘preparing the future workforce’ was a key motivation.
  • More than half of businesses (57%) said a lack of soft skills, such as communication and team working, were reasons why young people were not ‘work ready’.
  • Almost half of businesses (46%) said there was a lack of careers advice available for young people.
  • Due to fears around the work readiness of young people, more than a quarter of firms (27%) said they have not recruited a young person (aged between 16 and 24) in the last year.
  • Just over one third of businesses (39%) said they offer apprenticeships.
  • An additional 32% of firms would consider offering apprenticeships in future, while 54% say funding for additional training would encourage them to hire more young people.

To better prepare young people for work, the BCC has made the following recommendations taken from its 2014 / 2015 Business Manifesto:

  • Introduce experience of work in all secondary schools, through links with Accredited Chambers of Commerce, to help ensure a smooth transition from the education system to the world of work.
  • Assess secondary schools according to the future jobs and earnings of their pupils, through the appropriate school inspectorates in the devolved administrations. This would reform school measurement and accountability to focus on employability skills and preparation and exposure to work.
  • Work with government and devolved administrations to place a business governor on secondary school boards to increase business engagement.
  • Allow all university students to choose business and enterprise modules as part of their degree programmes, to encourage and train potential entrepreneurs and business people from a more diverse range of academic backgrounds.
  • Increase the take up of apprenticeships by extending the £1,500 apprenticeship grant for employers beyond 2016. Demand from candidates has outstripped supply of apprenticeship vacancies by as much as 11 to one.*

Commenting, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Many businesses are worried that in today’s burgeoning economic recovery, hiring a young person is a risky move due to their lack of experience, not to mention the investment of time and resource needed to train them. Business people tend to favour more skilled and experienced applicants – and while they do sympathise, their primary function is to run a business, which means making business decisions. Firms need young people that are resilient, good communicators and understand how to work as part of a team.

“We believe that successive governments have failed our young people by not properly equipping them for their future careers. Creating artificial targets, such as half of school leavers should go to university, has in the past sent the wrong signal to young people about the employment and training options open to them. Young people should be able to fulfil their potential in their own talent pool.

“But now is the time to break away from the blame game. Government and educational institutions must be more focused on equipping young people for the workplace, and in turn businesses must be more willing to give them a chance. In practice, this means introducing business governance into schools, proper careers advice with direct links to business, and measuring the success of schools and universities based on the employment outcomes of pupils.

“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. It is vital that we proactively build a pipeline of young talent who will go on to become the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs, as failure to do so could damage the UK’s future growth prospects and risk a lost generation of young people.”

David Rudick, VP International Markets at global job site “Careers advice has never been far from the spotlight this year, and today’s Workforce Survey from the British Chambers of Commerce reveals further concerns over graduate readiness for the world of work. As we look to develop the next generation of workers, it is absolutely critical that our young talent is not only given direction as to what career they might like to pursue, but how to go about finding a position. The internet has transformed the way we look for jobs, making search quicker and easier. The downside is that the amount of information suddenly at our fingertips can become quite overwhelming – particularly for jobseekers searching for their first role.

“Faced with a world of opportunity, and a blinking cursor in a search box, the desire to ‘get one foot on the ladder’ can mean it’s all too easy to mistake the firstavailable job for the right job. Needless to say, lack of job satisfaction and low motivation will lead to the next job search coming around quicker than it needs to, not to mention being enormously costly from an employer perspective. Helping young people make the all-important transition between education and work will depend on our ability to arm them with the tools and information they need to navigate the opportunities on offer. As well as providing direction on possible career routes, career advisors should be focused on simplifying and ‘demystifying’ the job search process, turning a daunting maze of options into an accessible path to employment.”