A new paper from the UKCES (UK Commission for Employment and Skills) last week shone a light on the difficulties young people in the UK are facing trying to get a foot on the employment ladder. In particular, the research highlighted that young people in the UK need more help as the UK's youth unemployment rate currently stands at three times that of the adult rate.
Sadly, this came as no surprise to me after CMI's recent report revealed that employers are seeking 'business ready' graduates, however, are not doing enough to offer extended, meaningful work experience. Just one fifth of businesses we questioned (22%) currently offer job placements or internships to business school students, yet, 89% of respondents agreed that embedding work experience within business courses at universities or in business schools would make students more employable.
Our research also found that 51% of employers currently experience difficulties in recruiting high calibre new managers because they cannot find the candidates with the right skills. Yet, in order for this to be made a reality, practical, working-world opportunities need to be there.
There is an obvious disparity between what employers are seeking and what they are prepared to offer students and business schools alike. If businesses aren't ready to provide young people with the important work experience they need to start a career in their sector, then how can they expect graduates to have the requisite skills when a role becomes available? By starting to practice what they preach employers will support the youth of today and create a pipeline of talent for their business.
It's important not to overlook the significant role that business schools and universities also have to play. CMI's research showed that currently only 17% of employers recruit directly from business schools when recruiting first time managers. Instead, more than a third (45%) use business schools to train and develop staff focusing on executive education rather than recruitment, highlighting that work needs to be done around transforming the perception of business schools.
However, there is great practice currently taking place at universities that deserves recognition. For example, the University of Worcester currently offers students the chance to gain firsthand retailing experience through a competition where students can win a six-week rental of a retail unit. Whilst at Oxford Brookes University, motorcycle-lovers are offered the chance to complete a one year internship with Harley Davidson, where they benefit from having the opportunity to work on large-scale projects for a global brand. Nevertheless, our report still suggests that Business schools could be doing more to engage with local businesses to offer students the kind of experience needed to get a job and build a career.
To further support young people and their employment prospects, 75% of employers were also in agreement that more graduates should seek professional qualifications alongside their academic achievements, to give employers evidence of their practical/applied skills. That's where organisation's like CMI can help, by bringing together employers and higher education institutions. Together we can lay the groundwork for more innovation, management capabilities and growth.
It's clear that one of the best ways to prepare young people for the world of work is to give them on-the ground experience, providing them with real-life knowledge to enhance their skills and confidence. Similarly, offering students the chance to study for professional qualifications, alongside their academic achievements, will also help to give them that edge over their peers when applying for jobs. If the bridges between employers and business schools are strengthened, then the greater our opportunities will be for effectively developing UK talent.