An extract from Steve Holliday’s speech made during the launch of the Careers Lab report at the Institute of Directors, June 2014.
Careers Lab launch
"In order for schools to give careers education the importance it deserves, the Government has to follow through on its pledge to include student destination measures in school league tables and give them weight."
Steve Holliday, National Grid Chief Executive Officer
Students receiving four or more employer contacts during school will be five times less likely to be Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET), they’ll receive an 18 per cent wage premium in work and will be two-and-a-half times more likely to be confident about finding a job.
Source: Report by the Education and Employers Task Force
National Grid Chief Executive Officer Steve Holliday explains why it’s vital that the Government follows through on its pledge to include student destination measures in school league tables and, crucially, that they make up half of the tables’ weighting, not just the 20 per cent currently proposed.
There’s a paradox facing Britain. UK industry has skills gaps we can’t fill. We need to train 87,000 new engineers each year, but the current rate is around 51,000. Similarly, nearly half of IT and Telecoms firms struggle to fill vacancies. Yet we have nearly a million young unemployed people in this country.
That’s the absurdity – jobs we can’t fill and hundreds of thousands of young people who want work, but don’t have the skills to match the jobs. In other areas such as culture, media and sport there’s massive over-demand.
This isn’t the fault of schools, they are not, nor should they be, experts about the local job market. Schools have an enormously important role but they can’t do it alone. Government, business, parents and careers professionals all have responsibilities in supporting schools in careers education.
National Grid commitment
Last year we made a commitment to do something about the widening skills gap in UK industry and the unpalatably high levels of youth unemployment.
We had a four-point plan for the role business could play, and created a steering group to shape our direction, with representatives from schools, businesses and professional organisations with relevant expertise.
Throughout this past year reports by the Department for Education, Ofsted, The National Careers Council, the Gatsby Foundation, the CBI and City and Guilds have all pointed to the importance of greater links between schools and businesses and a need to inspire young people about the world of work.
And a report by the Education and Employers Task Force offered up the killer statistics that students receiving four or more employer contacts during school will be five times less likely to be Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET), they’ll receive an 18 per cent wage premium in work and will be two-and-a-half times more likely to be confident about finding a job.
Encouragingly these reports and our own research have shown that things are moving in the right direction. However, there’s still a problem – and an emerging consensus with our conclusion from a year ago – that Careers Education in schools IS key to trying to resolve this problem. It’s also clear that there’s no single intervention that would solve the problem.
But how are schools to know which is the best approach and how do willing businesses easily link up with schools?
The Careers Lab solution
Careers Lab was created with all this in mind, as a solution focused on student need that involves schools and works for business.
It’s a framework both schools and businesses can slot into, a progressive four-module programme designed to be delivered over four years, from years 7 to 11.
It provides educational resources that are designed to be a progression, but are flexible enough to bring in existing sector programmes or be tailored to the schools’ needs. Importantly these are brought to life by Business Ambassadors using real-life examples from their careers and the companies they work for.
To drive the initiative forward, we joined forces with a core group of like-minded business, including Costain, HS2, Capgemini, Compass and Whitbread.
We piloted it with more than 1,400 students across five schools in the West Midlands, deliberately chosen to ensure we had a good socio-economic mix. And as you can see from the video below, this works.
Nearly four in five students said that it taught them more about the jobs and opportunities available to them, and almost 80 per cent said they had a better understanding of how their education linked to their career.
Careers Lab isn’t a new careers initiative, or just another one in the mix, it’s the framework that binds all these other initiatives together. It’s also reinforced the fact that there’s no single solution.
So that’s why we’re calling on key stakeholders to take action that we believe will make the biggest difference to enabling a step change in careers education in our schools.
A call to action
Every business in the UK should encourage their most engaging and inspiring employees to take part in careers education, to share their own career journey for at least one hour a year, either through Careers Lab or a similar programme. It’s a small commitment, but when added up across all businesses it will have a big impact on the youngsters they reach and the employees that deliver it.
With businesses such as National Grid that can commit a bit more time, we’d encourage them to take on a role as a co-ordinator for their location or sector, to mobilise other businesses to participate in the classroom.
We’re asking schools to appoint a senior member of their team to be responsible for careers, and ensure there’s a joined up programme of careers education across all schools.
Crucially, we’re calling for important support from Government. It’s very clear that, in order for schools to give careers education the importance it deserves, the Government has to follow through on its pledge to include student destination measures in school league tables and give them weight.
The 20 per cent that has been proposed – but not yet committed to – just isn’t enough. Destination measures should make up 50 per cent of league tables, with attainment and progress indicators making the other 50 per cent.
Of course, exam results are important – businesses like National Grid need some of the best minds in our country to take our company forward – but they mean nothing if they can’t be translated into a career.
You can’t separate the needs of our young people from the needs of UK business. Our economy, our national prosperity, depends on filling those gaps.
If we know one thing about league tables, it’s that schools do respond to measures, especially as the ability to attract pupils depends on where they are placed in these tables.
But schools need to know they’re being measured on the value they give to their pupils. They won’t have the freedom to prepare our young people for working life unless the Government starts to place a value on that effort.
A year ago, we agreed we needed action, not just another report. And I’m delighted we can say we’ve taken action. But where do we go from here?
When you look at the skills paradox, the colossal mismatch between the vacancies and skills, the long-term impact on the next generation, our businesses and our economy, we have to look at what we’re doing and ask ‘is it enough’ and ‘is this really working?’
Careers Lab roll-out
We’re aiming to roll out Careers Lab into at least 600 schools over the next year and are developing a number of partnerships to make this happen.
We haven’t asked Government for funding. As businesses, we must step up and play our part and so we’re creating a Careers Lab Board of organisations that are willing to make a modest financial contribution to make this happen.
All I’d ask is that the Government makes good on its pledge to include destination figures in the metrics for school league tables and gets the weighting right. If that happens, schools will be able to give this more time, business will step up and we can start to turn this national skills paradox around.
Steve Holliday on the UK skills gap.
The Careers Lab is a partnership between schools and business to bring the world of work alive to young people.
Generation Talent is a joint initiative between BITC and The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), developed by Business in the Community’s Talent & Skills Leadership Team to help businesses scale up the number of unemployed young people they recruit.