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Basic skills gap hitting employment, says FPB on eve of a level results
On the eve of the publication of the latest A level results, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) is warning that small businesses are struggling to recruit young workers with basic skills.
The FPB is supporting ‘Backing Young Britain’, a government initiative pledging £1 billion for employers in order to create 50,000 new jobs for 18-to-24-year-olds by October 2009. However, following an Ofsted report highlighting “disappointing” results in the ‘functional skills’ courses that form part of the trial of Government’s new diplomas, which it hopes will eventually replace A-levels and GCSEs, the FPB is concerned that the education system is not adequately preparing young people for the world of work.
Phil Orford, the FPB’s Chief Executive, urged more small firms to put in place apprenticeships, internship schemes and work experience programmes in order to benefit from the drive and creativity of young people and, in turn, help young recruits learn what employers need from their staff.
“Our members value young people who can bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm to the workplace. It is important that young people leave school, college or university with the skills and confidence they need to enter their first job and do well,” said Mr Orford, commenting on the ‘Backing Young Britain’ scheme. “We regularly take on work experience students, interns, and recent school-leavers and graduates. They have always proven to be a great asset to the organisation and, in return, have left us with a good taste of what doing business is all about.”
In 2008, a major study of the education and skills needs of small businesses, carried out by the FPB, found that almost one in five respondents (18%) believed the basic skills of the UK’s labour market to be ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, and 68% described them as just ‘average’.
Basic skills valued by smaller-business employers were literacy, numeracy, English language communication and basic ICT skills, such as using email. Job-specific abilities valued by employers, according to the survey, included customer service, sales and marketing skills, and specialist ICT skills.
The provision of training was a key concern of business-owners, according to the entrepreneurs who took part in the survey. When selecting a training provider, they said the factors influencing their decisions were:
· Having a single point of contact
· Minimal time to arrange courses
· Flexible training times
· Proximity to the business
· Competency in the skills that the training has been sourced to provide
· The amount of time staff have to take off to train
· The likelihood of the firm’s financial position being strengthened by the training
· Qualifications related to the required skills
· Further support once the training has been completed.
The majority of the FPB’s members surveyed said they valued school-leavers above graduates and postgraduates. Just 11% said they actively recruited graduates or postgraduates when taking on staff, but almost double (20%) preferred to take on employees from school or college.
In addition, 77% of small-business employers did not require employees with ‘university’ skills, while 36% wanted people with technical and craft skills which they believed were not being provided by university courses.
“There is a clear gap between what businesses need and what businesses get when it comes to the ability of the education system to produce viable employees for small businesses,” commented Mr Orford. “The results of the FPB‘s research prove that our members have issues when it comes to finding employees with basic attributes such as communication, numeracy and literacy, as well as more developed and specific skills that are required by individual businesses.”