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What schools and business leaders should be doing to prepare young people for the work

Michael Mercieca, chief executive of Young Enterprise, shares his views on what our schools and business leaders should be doing to prepare young people for the world of work.

Unemployment rates have fallen but youth joblessness remains a huge problem. I would argue that if you delay intervening until after young people have reached this position you will end up dealing with the symptoms of the problem but you will not be dispensing a cure- and prevention is always better than cure. Of course we must continue to address the high rates of youth unemployment in the UK, but unless you fix the pipeline of students leaving school with inadequate skills, the problem is never going to go away.

Both businesses and education leaders have a duty to make sure those leaving school have the skills, confidence and aptitudes they need to succeed and excel in the workforce. We firmly believe that a huge contributory factor to youth unemployment is that students are leaving the education system without being prepared properly for work – and the overwhelming majority of employers that we have spoken to agree. Companies are rightly being told that is vital for the future of the economy to employ young people. But then when they hold interviews the potential new recruits often turn out not to be equipped for the jobs on offer.

Young Enterprise is uniquely well-placed to deal with this problem. After 50 years we have built up unrivalled expertise that ensures young people get the chance to acquire these employability skills before they leave the classroom. We have developed a range of programmes that unleash the potential of young people by exposing them to the thrills and challenges of business right up to, and including, running their own company for a year. As part of Junior Achievement Worldwide, which supports over 10 million students every year on every continent, these programmes are constantly being reviewed and updated.

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