learndirect calls for more focus on workplace skills

Young people in the UK are experiencing a crisis of competence and are leaving school without the skills needed for the workplace, according to a new report by learndirect.

‘Ability x Skills + (Knowledge) = the right formula for change?’ argues for more time in school to be spent by young people on workplace skills, giving them the knowledge and experience they need to enter UK businesses.

The report highlights how too many young people are spending too much time learning specialist elements of the school curriculum which they will never use in the workplace (particularly maths). It highlights how the school curriculum needs to adapt and respond to the changing needs of the labour market.

Recent research by learndirect shows how much curriculum and industry trends have changed over the years. Whilst Victorian schoolchildren took classes in housework, shoemaking and agriculture to match the top jobs at the time, today’s secondary school children are not taught the skills needed for the modern, fast paced workplace.

Dereth Wood, Director of Learning, Policy and Strategy at learndirect said: “Despite persistent reform of our education system and continued investment in skills, the UK is struggling to keep pace with its international competitors. There is now an urgent need to re-fuel the economy with the skills it needs to grow in the future.

“By freeing up time in the curriculum for school children to focus on practical maths and transferable and softer skills such as communication, team working and ICT, we believe all young people will leave the education system with at least the functional skills needed for life and work.”

In order to ensure our future workforce is well prepared for the jobs market to secure sustainable and economic growth for all, learndirect outlines five recommendations for change:

1.    Split the maths curriculum in England – Two separate but linked maths qualifications should be offered at 14-16, including a full and comprehensive maths GCSE for those who want to progress in the discipline and a second, more practical, maths qualification.

2.    Offer Functional Skills as an ‘equal’ alternative to GCSE for young people who continue to study maths and English post 16.  Where appropriate young people who do not achieve a GCSE grade C or better should have the option to study Functional Skills as a standalone qualification.

3.    Greater focus on vocational pathways.  For those young people who want to pursue a vocational career, having an awareness and understanding at an early age of the priority and emerging sectors in a local area is key and education provision must reflect this local and often changing demand.

4.    Work experience matters: Every young person should have the opportunity to undertake a period of work experience during their compulsory education.

5.    Greater use of technology in teaching and learning:  Technology has a key role to play in increasing demand for numeracy (and literacy) – with the potential to enhance the delivery of teaching and learning in schools.

You can download a copy of the report here