Education, in all its forms, needs to be geared towards skills development and employability. This should be accompanied with a strong inspirational programme of activities for young people, giving them much needed careers advice and guidance, helping them to make informed decisions on careers choices.
With the Open University’s 2018 Business Barometer estimating the direct cost of skills shortages at £6.3 billion each year; and the latest research from City and Guilds suggesting that nine out of ten UK employers struggle to recruit, and two thirds predict skills shortages will stay the same or get worse in the next three to five years, there is more than enough evidence that things need to change quickly.
Digital technology is now fundamentally changing the way we live our lives; the way we handle our finances, shop, and even socialise. As a direct result of this, digital skills are required across the whole of the UK, from FTSE 100s to small businesses.
We know that embracing digital technology can help businesses in every sector to be more productive. Firms risk being left behind unless they have the skills to take advantage of technology to remain competitive and responsive to their customers.
It’s important that the benefits of going digital are highlighted, therefore making sure small businesses and their staff can access the basic digital skills training that meets their needs, through initiatives like the National Retraining Scheme. If we can harness the digital potential of small firms, we stand a real chance of creating more world-beating businesses and boosting growth.
Employability, however, isn’t just about skills. Many employers list attitude and reliability as one of the first attributes they look for in an employee. This is difficult to achieve when so many young people are in the wrong job, due to a lack of information and opportunities offered to them when making career choices.
Since the abolition of mandatory work experience in schools, funding has been withdrawn and young people are having to seek out their own work placements. This puts a huge strain on employers having to deal with hundreds of calls, instead of dealing with one centralised service. Government needs to provide adequate resource for educators to partner with organisations such as the Association of Education Business Professionals to ensure quality work experience is provided as part of a credible careers advice and guidance programme in all schools.