UK employers look to hire school leavers as skills shortage bites (?)

An interesting piece in the Financial Times this week,   arguing that employers are planning to recruit more school leavers rather than just rely on graduates.

Rather than the ‘generic’ skills that graduates have, the FT reports that employers are short of recruits with ‘specific’ skills and can’t rely on the government’s further education reforms to provide these.   Because employers are required to pay an apprenticeship levy,  it’s suggested that as a result, there will be a ‘creative’ increase in apprenticeship recruitment as employers seek to ‘diversify’ their recruitment processes.

The jobs that school leavers used to enter in the post-way years have long disappeared, being replaced by low-paid work at the lower end of the service sector, for which they compete with adults. Lack of employment opportunities being a key reason for the huge increases in university attendance. As a result, only a small minority of school leavers ( young people are supposed to remain in full-time education or training until 18) make a direct transition to employment –  under 19 year olds constitute less than a third of annual apprenticeship starts. There has been an increase in the number of higher level apprenticeships, but these are as likely to be existing employees enrolling on management diplomas. The government’s Kick-Start programme, designed to created jobs for unemployed school leavers has failed to meet its targets.

It isn’t clear from the report about the specific skills employers require, or don’t think they get from graduates. Like others, the piece refers to the increased number of ‘tech’ vacancies, but closer investigation will show these are in areas like cyber security, data management and software development, not skills that school leavers will have. It would be an extremely positive development if young people weren’t just faced with  ‘university or bust’ .  But we shall see. The FT’s  headline is probably overcooked.

2 thoughts on “UK employers look to hire school leavers as skills shortage bites (?)

  1. Once again a headline about the “UK” turns out actually to be about England.

    The situation is totally different in Scotland, both in terms of the general features of the education system and in the specifics of when school leavers leave and where they go (just to make clear according to the latest data there’s actually been notable fall to just over 20% of Scottish school leavers who went into employment at the end of 2019-20, compared to 23% into FE level courses [up to the level of the Higher qual – Scot level 6], and 42% to HE level, which includes the one third of HE students on level 7 HNC/HND courses in colleges). The majority of school leavers are 17, and hardly any stay until they are 18 of course, as there are no equivalents of English Sixth Forms (Y12/13) and undergraduate degrees are 4 year courses.

    Fortunately Scottish education is well informed by an excellent government agency – Skills Development Scotland – the data they collect about school leavers destinations is readily available on the Statistics section of the Scottish Government website.

    Of course England does represent 80% of the UK population, but it’s far from the full picture – a comparison of the relative performance of the four education jurisdictions is necessary to get the full “UK” situation.

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