I can confirm that Milton Keynes College didn't win an award this week, but we helped.
The Spirit Pub Company is one of the UK's foremost hospitality brands and it was named Best Work Experience Provider 2015 for the Teen Spirit Work Inspirations Programme and the partnership which provides work experience for Milton Keynes College catering students. The award was made by the Springboard Charity which aims to help disadvantaged young people into work. So far twenty-two of our students have been given that vital opportunity by the scheme to learn what it's like to actually be in a real job. It's something we're very proud of here, making that often hard-to-make link between classroom and employment, or as we prefer to say, between college and careers.
The award is particularly satisfying in the same week as the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) announced that its annual workforce survey suggested that 88% of businesses think school leavers are unprepared for the workplace. The BCC says, "Businesses felt young people lack basic employability skills such as communication skills, resilience and insight into how to act appropriately in the workplace." This backs up another survey by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills undertaken in 2014 which stated that employers found college-trained youngsters considerably more work-ready than their school counterparts of the same age.
The government is spending a great deal of time and effort currently trying to bridge what is known as the skills gap, and this is generally seen as the lack of young people coming through to working age without the necessary knowledge to go into what used to be called, "a trade." However, if the employers are to be believed (and they really are the ones who should know) then the problem is as much about understanding what being at work means - how to talk to customers, how to listen to and take instruction, how to turn up on time each day etc. This is the area where FE colleges like Milton Keynes can score very highly. We have stronger relationships with employers and have greater capacity to provide simulated or real work situations where students can learn these basic but essential skills. At Milton Keynes College students works for real customers in our hairdressing salon, beauty spa, media and catering departments routinely as they study. We believe passionately that not only do the individuals themselves benefit but so do the employers, who have the opportunity to shape young people in the work practices they themselves believe to be most important.
How much better would the workforce as a whole perform, I wonder, if every young person had the opportunity of real work experience before completing their education? How much better informed would their choices be when opting for a particular career? How much better served would those businesses be which completed the BCC survey?
The College is constantly striving to form a greater number of more effective partnerships with business and the success stories, like that with Spirit, speak for themselves. Perhaps if some of those companies which are disappointed by their intake of young people from education were to come forward to offer similar opportunities at an earlier stage, they might find work-ready job applicants somewhat easier to come by in future.
If you want to find out how your business can take advantage of a work experience partnership with Milton Keynes College, please contact Jane Horridge on 01908 684520.