From the Telegraph.co.uk
School leavers ‘unable to function in the workplace’
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 8:38AM BST 11/06/2012
More than four in 10 employers are being forced to provide remedial training in English, maths and IT amid concerns teenagers are leaving school lacking basic skills, it emerged today.
Figures show that 42 per cent of companies now stage lessons in core subjects because young people are unable to function in the workplace.
The Confederation of British Industry said that too many school leavers struggled to write to the necessary standard, employ basic numeracy or use a computer properly.
Almost two-thirds of business leaders also said that teenagers were failing to develop vital skills such as self-management and timekeeping at school.
The disclosure – in a survey of 542 firms employing around 1.6m people – will add to growing concerns that the education system is failing to equip children for the demands of university and the workplace.
It is claimed that year-on-year rises in GCSE and A-level results have been driven by a focus on “teaching to the test” instead of promoting a rounded education.
John Cridland, CBI director-general, said: “The foundations for the development of higher-level skills and the essentials for working life, that employers require, are laid at school.
“With the right start at school our young people can go on to have successful and fulfilling careers and have a strong base from which to learn more at college, university, or in the workplace.
“But levels of educational attainment are rising fast in many leading and emerging economies, so in the UK we must ensure that our education and skills system can continue to compete at the cutting edge.”
The study – carried out jointly by the CBI and Pearson Education – found that 42 per cent of employers have organised remedial training for at least some of the youngsters joining them from school or college.
The most common extra training for school leavers is in IT, but around a fifth of all employers are putting on classes in numeracy or literacy, with some providing extra help in more than one area.
More than a third of employers said they were dissatisfied with school leavers’ literacy skills, while 30 per cent were unhappy with the levels of numeracy.
Employers were even less satisfied with young people’s so-called employability skills, the survey suggests.
Overall, six-in-10 reported problems with school leavers’ self-management skills, while 69 per cent criticised their business and customer awareness and 37 per cent were concerned at their attitudes towards work.
The report said: “It is probably not so much that levels of attainment have declined as that the levels of skill needed tend to escalate with the growing complexity of the workplace.”
The report found many employers believe primary schools should be focusing on the basics – reading, writing and maths – while secondary schools should prioritise developing the skills pupils will need for the world of work, as well as advanced literacy, numeracy and technology.
A Government source said: “The CBI is right. Despite billions being pumped into schools by Labour, standards were not good enough.
“The unions and Labour set up a system that saw thousands of children pushed into doing worthless courses that meant they left school without knowing the basics. We need a relentless focus on the basics combined with real opportunities to reach the high standards other countries achieve.
“There is no more important task for our country than ending this crippling waste of talent.”
But Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, which represents teachers, defended schools, saying the Government and employers should take more responsibility for tackling youth unemployment.
“Year on year improvements in examination results and record numbers of young people staying on in education and training are testament to the achievements of our schools,” she said.
“It would be a travesty to pretend that youth unemployment is the fault of schools.
“Regrettably, too many young people are facing a bleak future of unemployment, not because of a lack of skills, but because of a lack of jobs, exacerbated by the failure of the Coalition Government to prioritise investment and growth over cuts and austerity.”
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