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Michael Mercieca for the Telegraph Education: ‘End education conveyer belt to give pupils a chance in the job market’

We need a systematic approach to ensure each child develops the right skills for the world of work, argues Michael Mercieca

It’s long been lamented within the business community that the current education system isn’t providing young people with the skills that allow them to move seamlessly from the classroom to the workplace.

With 30 per cent of small businesses reporting the skills shortages as a barrier to economic growth, ensuring young people are ready for the world of work is a serious concern for employers.

There is a growing body of research detailing how non-academic factors such as resilience, grit and empathy have a profound impact on young people and their ability to succeed.

Most recently, think-tank Demos revealed that nearly a third of final year sixth form students believe their school prepares them to succeed only in exams, rather than in later life.

This is a worrying perception given that schools play a vital role in preparing young people for their futures: not just providing them with the technical competences to compete in a global economy, but also helping them develop key skills to operate in the world of work.

“Encouraging young people to develop work-essential competences will be essential in order to maximise their economic and personal potential.”

After 14 years of schooling, students should have the necessary skills to fulfil their potential in the workplace. If they don’t, we need to ask why not?

Teachers do a great job but under immense pressure to tick academic boxes. As a result, some essential character skills are not being nurtured enough.

In particular, non-measurable and more gradually-developed character skills have suffered under the “conveyer belt” of UK schooling. Students are churned out by an education factory more focused on ensuring exam success than developing the skills to succeed in life.

Encouraging young people to develop work-essential competences, which include teamwork, resilience and confidence, will be essential in order for young people to maximise their economic and personal potential.

“Everyone must do their bit to share knowledge, and nurture skills like teamwork, leadership and problem solving.”
Throughout history, education has been a force for change. And no matter what their social or economic background, schools must provide the opportunity for every young person to discover their passions and succeed in their chosen field.

Participation in varied pursuits is an essential part of making young people assertive and resilient to enable workplace readiness.

Typically, high-income parents find it easier to supplement their children’s academic education with extra-curricular opportunities, but it is important and equitable that all young people have access to diverse and interesting activities.

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