With the festive period barely over, the focus is now on 2014. For me, the most exciting part of the end of one year is the start of the next one. Because with the New Year comes new beginnings, new resolutions and above all new opportunities.
Many businesses will be hoping that 2014 continues to see the economy improve and so offers opportunities to grow. Before I consider how to grow, my first focus is ensuring that I have the right team around me. You cannot grow in a healthy way unless you have a strong team. This means attracting talent, but also ensuring that entry level recruits are ready to manage the increased workload.
There are more options for young people than ever: academia, vocational qualifications, traineeships etc. While I firmly believe that choice is paramount, this can only be the case if it is matched with quality advice. With so many options, young people need to know what each one will mean for them and more importantly which they are suited to. But, research from the CBI and LifeSkills Youth Barometer reveals that 93% of young people are not getting the careers advice they need. Without the support young people need, they cannot be sure they are gaining the right skills to get employment when they leave education.
With so much uncertainty, perhaps it is less surprising that just under one million young people remain out of employment, education or training. The research shows that the problem is not that young people aren't receptive to careers advice but that they haven't received enough of it. Young people are eager to find out more information on the full range of options open to them - both academic and vocational- as 20% of those polled wanted more information than they were currently getting.
Because of the growth of options, the research seems to show the careers advice is outdated. Going to university isn't the only way to get a successful career, indeed for many vocations it isn't even the best. For example, CBI and LifeSkills found that only a quarter of young people are receiving information on starting an apprenticeship, and as low as 17% are receiving information on what vocational qualifications are available.
We need to eliminate the stigma around vocational routes and look at other countries for guidance such as Germany and Austria - countries where over two-thirds of young people choose vocational routes, compared to only one-third of young people in the UK. It was hugely encouraging to see the government putting its weight behind apprentices by pledging £1.6million to support the employers and professional bodies that are developing the first Apprenticeship standards and assessment approaches. Hopefully this will be a positive step in demonstrating apprenticeships are a credible route to getting ahead in a young person's career.
To do this, businesses need to take a lead in connecting with young people to see how they can help them on their way to choosing a career path. This can be done via work experience or offering a traineeship or apprenticeship. These are all ways to install the skill businesses need before the recruit and have to spend time and money on training will also trying to grow.
In the next year, I hope to do more to help businesses as they work with young people and education providers to ensure that the next generation is ready for work. I call on all businesses to do the same.