Education: A Silo, Entire of Itself (Part 2)

20/09/2012 10:51 BST | Updated 19/11/2012 10:12 GMT

In the first post in this series I argued that Britain is failing to prepare its young people for the world of work; grounding my argument on the premise that the education system is entirely detached from the realities of the professional world of work.

What did I mean by this? Well since young people at school and university learn in a strictly academic sense, there is rarely, if ever, interplay between the school setting and the professional world. And so after many years of schooling the given young person is essentially unprepared and illiterate in the ways of work.

In other words: the education system is a silo, entire of itself.

But young people don't need an education system that keeps itself to itself. They need an education system that encourages interplay and exposure to the real world. How else can they know what they want to be or do as an adult? How else can they equip themselves with the skills needed to succeed in the real world?

In response to this I called for decision and policymakers to break down the silo walls that surround education and the world of work; calling for them to embed a synergy and symbiotic relationship between schooling and the world of work that enriches the education system and prepares the young person for a professional career.

To better understand this problem I want to recount the story of an unemployed young person, and then, later in the series, I will present the story of an employed young person.

Joe graduated a year ago with a 2:1 in Law; however he has yet to find meaningful employment.

Joe chose to study law at university because he had been highly successful at school, because law was regarded as a prestigious degree and because society was approving. He hadn't received much guidance from teachers or his parents, but sure lawyers are rich - well that what he told himself.

After enjoying the transition into university life Joe coasted through uni doing all that was asked of him and more, and after 4 years of intense studying he gained the coveted 2:1 honors he had sought so badly.

Armed with a piece of paper with a degree title on it Joe went in search of a job. However he found that employers wanted work experience, deep industry knowledge and polished professional skills. But he didn't have any of this.

University had required 6 hours of class a week, a set reading list and 4.5 months of holiday a year. Yea his friends had parents who made them do work experience each summer, but Tom took it easy and worked in a gardening centre.

However without the professional experience and skills Joe found his degree rendered effectively worthless. Although all Joe's friends who had spent their summers interning found jobs.

Deeply frustrated Joe began to ask himself: "why wasn't the teaching of professional skills and professional work experience not made a compulsory part of university education since they're so important to getting a job? Why did no one tell me this? How come my friends knew to prepare themselves so well for the world of work?"

No one could give Joe the answers he wanted but he knew one thing: getting a job would require getting professional experience, much improved professional skills and awareness, a better CV and more competent interview skills.

But having left university and without the contacts and guidance Joe couldn't even get work experience. Months later Joe eventually got work experience, however it was unpaid and came to nothing. Most worryingly: all Joe's friends and the world was flying by and Joe felt increasingly out of it.

After leaving his unpaid internship Joe spent 4 months on the job hunt. His search and interviews were fruitless.

Now Joe is now retraining to become a health and fitness instructor.

Ultimately Joe could have improved his employment prospects drastically had he invested his time during university in gaining professional skills and experiences. However university didn't offer any such services and his friends and family didn't know anything about the world of law, so they couldn't help.

It does seem that had the white collar world played a role in Joe's time at university he could have enjoyed the transition into work.

It's for that reason I'm running this series of blog posts. Joe's story is also the reason I'm working to correct the deficiencies and inequalities in education that saw Joe, a bright and talented prospect, fail to reach his potential.