Education and skills top discussion at BCC conference

Education and skills are key to business success and economic recovery, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Conference heard from a high profile line up on Wednesday, 1 April.

The conference – entitled ‘State of the Nation – Good to Great’ – featured a host of top business people and MPs who discussed, amongst other topics, how we can ensure the workforce of today and tomorrow has the right skills to grow the UK economy.

In a video message, David Cameron praised the work being done to provide skills for young people, which is essential to the economy. He also discussed the importance of helping them make the transition from school into the world of work – from getting young people into Apprenticeships to raising awareness of enterprise in schools.

The importance of Apprenticeships was also reflected in speeches from other Ministers, including Matthew Hancock, Ed Balls, Lord Adonis and Michael Gove. There was a huge consensus more needs to be done to get young people into vocational learning, especially through careers advice, and it should be considered a first class part of our curriculum. Matthew Hancock described how ‘softer’ skills such as confidence, passion, enthusiasm and drive should not be labelled as such and are absolutely essential ingredients for business.

Turning his attention to the needs of businesses, Michael Gove touched upon the need for Apprenticeships to reflect the needs of business, explaining how they are real jobs with stretching maths and English qualifications running alongside. He also talked about the work being done with 400 trailblazers to design new standards for Apprenticeships.

John Longworth, Director General at the BCC reiterated these points, urging employers to give Apprenticeships a go. He discussed how preparing the next generation for the workforce is too important to the economy to ignore and how bridging the gap between education and employers is vital.

The conference also heard inspiring speeches from top business men and women, such as Sir John Parker, Theo Pathitis, and Karren Brady. Sir John talked about how he wouldn’t be where he is today if he hadn’t had the privilege of doing an Apprenticeship whilst Karren expressed her pride in the government’s commitment to support 1.6million Apprenticeships. Theo discussed how times have changed and graduates are not entitled to a job just because they have a degree, outlining how skills sets and work experience are becoming more important.

McDonald’s CEO Jill McDonald gave a business point of view, touching on the partnership between learndirect and McDonald’s. As well as delivering online maths and English Functional Skills qualifications for McDonald’s apprentices, we also worked together to deliver a pilot with Jobcentre Plus to offer local communities support in gaining skills in CV writing, interview and job hunting.

The conference ended with a poignant question for the panel which was: ‘do we have enough young talent in Britain?’ The answer was a resounding yes.