Four-fifths of business and education leaders believe mandatory work experience could play a pivotal role in teaching young people workplace skills
The Conservative party has shown itself to be overwhelmingly in favour of in-work training for young people. This is almost certainly why it raised a few eyebrows when the government scrapped mandatory work experience in schools across England three years ago. Now, it seems business and education leaders are calling for the Tories to rectify their mistake and make work experience compulsory again.
In a survey of 3,500 business bosses and education leaders conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce, 82% of respondents from the world of business and 73% of from schools, colleges and universities said they believe work experience should be offered to pupils under 16. Nearly four-fifths of respondents felt that work experience should be prioritised as it taught young people important workplace skills. A further 69% and 55% respectively said paid part-time work and volunteering were important for teaching professional skills.
Businesses also felt there was no ideal work experience model. One to two weeks’ experience during term time was the most popular form of placement, with 66% of companies saying they offered this model. Meanwhile the research found that 47% of enterprises provide summer placements, 30% run flexible work placements and 27% arrange visits to their business for groups of pupils.
Despite businesses emphasising the importance of work experience, a third of businesses do not currently offer any work placements. Those at the smallest end of the scale were the least likely to offer work experience, with 59% of micro-businesses and 29% of small businesses admitting to having nothing in place for under-16s. Large businesses offered the most placements, with only 12% saying they didn’t have any programmes to offer young people.
John Longworth, director general of the BCC, said: “It was careless of government to end compulsory work experience in 2012 but it is not too late to correct the mistake. Work experience is crucial to bringing down our stubbornly high youth unemployment rate. It will help ensure more young people are prepared for work. It will help close the yawning skills gaps reported by frustrated businesses across the UK, who face huge difficulty filling vacancies at every level.”
Hopefully then the government will learn from its mistake. After all, experience is the best teacher.