Apprenticeships can bridge skills gap

A NEW survey has revealed that employers are very positive in their attitudes to young people starting out on the career ladder.

As hundreds of young people across Leeds leave school this summer, the survey shows that 90 per cent of the city’s employers believe in teenagers’ abilities to breathe enthusiasm, young blood and fresh ideas into an organisation.

The survey, commissioned by national training provider Lifetime, revealed that to bag a job in the city, school leavers need to be able to demonstrate previous work experience.

Sixty per cent of the city’s employers rank a candidate’s ‘hands-on’ experience as the most attractive quality on a curriculum vitae, compared to a quarter who quoted academic qualifications.

Two thirds of the employers also added that young people who have learnt on the job are much more attractive than university graduates as they are ‘work-ready.’

In the long run, companies benefit from hiring school leavers as they can nurture and mould someone from a young age.

The findings do, however, reveal a bleak outlook on the skills acquired during school life – 84 per cent of employers in the city believe the academic curriculum is not adequately preparing young people to enter the workforce.

And 35 per cent of senior managers believe that many school leavers cannot even write a letter or create a spreadsheet.

A further 78 per cent admitted that even a university education is not enough to prepare graduates for employment.

Nigel Wallace, director of training at Lifetime, said: “It is clear from these findings that young people require a stepping stone between education and a career and an apprenticeship programme offers exactly this.

“Our research shows that companies in Leeds do understand the value of employing school leavers but still feel that they do not possess the correct skills.

“Therefore, any talent a young individual has may be overlooked because of their lack of previous experience.”

A constructive 73 per cent of the city’s managers said that school leavers would be better equipped for employment if skills such as teamwork, communications and self management were taught as part of the curriculum.

Mr Wallace said: “This is where government-funded apprenticeship programmes can prove their worth. They bridge the gap between education and employment by offering the candidate real-life experience within a company, while building their employability skills. Literacy and numeracy skills play a key role in the programmes.”

Despite the Government’s recent £60 million commitment to boosting work prospects and transforming vocational education, only 13 per cent of the Leeds-based employers are planning on recruiting apprentices.

Mr Wallace said: “It is disappointing that many employers are not taking advantage of programmes that can help to reduce youth unemployment rates and boost the economy. A third of employers profess not to understand how to implement an apprenticeship programme or where to go for advice. There is clearly a need to address this.”

With the range of government-funded options and employer-led programmes available, young people can earn while they learn those skills employers demand.

Mr Wallace said: “I would urge all school leavers to explore the opportunities to gain experience this summer.”