BRIDGING THE SKILLS GAPBridging the Skills Gap

By Heather Beeby. Director of Communications, Hurstpierpoint College

What can businesses do today to help prepare tomorrow’s workforce for employment? Last summer, The British Chambers of Commerce described employers’ concern about the poor levels of literacy, numeracy, communication and timekeeping skills they identified in school leavers and graduates. In the same year the Government made the decision to cut the £200m school’s careers service, leaving schools to provide careers advice out of their own limited resources. Where does this leave the pupils, those who will provide the workforce and ultimately the pensions for those currently in work and how can we best prepare these pupils for the workplace? Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, has stated that he is convinced local employers are best placed to provide both inspiration and advice. So how can businesses in Sussex make a difference to our local young people and what are the benefits for the businesses themselves?

What most young people want is one to one guidance from someone who understands them, helps them to understand themselves and supports them on their journey from school to university or to the workplace and this is primarily the role of a careers advisor or tutor at school. Young people often find it difficult to recognise the skills and qualities they have and may not realise that playing netball or rugby demonstrates the ability to work in a team or that being a school prefect demonstrates leadership potential.

Businesses, and in particular recruitment agencies, can help these young people by coming into schools, speaking to the pupils about preparing for work, providing advice on writing a good CV and giving interview practice. Some agencies are happy to provide workshops on the use of assessment centres and may even give the pupils practical experience which in turn builds confidence. Providing careers talks in schools can be extremely helpful as can support within specific school departments such as science and IT and some businesses are happy to offer ‘taster days’ for young people which will help them as they start to make decisions about their future careers.

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