Self-management skills lacking among UK school leavers

Anxiety among employers, with demand for leadership skills set to rise over the next five years.

David Cameron at the CBI annual conference in London. Credit: Getty Images

In a survey of 542 UK employers conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Pearson, 61 per cent said that school and college leavers in the country have not developed the self-management skills they need for work while at school.

The education and skills survey, carried out between January and February, found that over the next three to five years, employers expect to need more people with leadership and management skills (a balance of +67 per cent) and other higher skills (+61 per cent). For lower-skilled workers, they expect to slightly cut numbers (-3 per cent).

Some 51 per cent of the surveyed were confident of filling their low-skilled vacancies, while 15 per cent were not confident of meeting their need for higher-skilled employees.

Over half of the surveyed had built links with secondary schools (57 per cent) and further education colleges (56 per cent).

The research also found that during the past year, more than a third employers had increased their engagement with schools, while 7 per cent reduced it, giving a balance of +32 per cent.

Meanwhile, 51 per cent of the surveyed provided careers advice. Despite this, 68 per cent said that the general quality of advice was still not good enough. More than 60 per cent of respondents said they would like to play a greater role in delivering careers advice.

In other areas, more than 70 per cent of employers provided work experience to students and around 29 per cent of them acted as governors.

John Cridland, director-general of CBI, said:

The UK’s growth will depend on developing a wider and deeper pool of skills so that our economy can prosper in the face of fierce international competition for business.

There is nothing more important to the future economic success of our country, and the lives of young people, than education. The foundations for the development of higher-level skills and the essentials for working life, that employers require, are laid at school.

With the right start at school our young people can go on to have successful and fulfilling careers and have a strong base from which to learn more at college, university, or in the workplace. But levels of educational attainment are rising fast in many leading and emerging economies, so in the UK we must ensure that our education and skills system can continue to compete at the cutting edge.

Rod Bristow, president of Pearson UK, said:

The connection between education and the world of work is critically important. Employers and all of us working in education have a big task to address that connection properly. Despite improvements in the past decade, employers want to see an even sharper focus on literacy and numeracy, beginning at primary school. Literacy and numeracy are the basic building blocks that help young people learn other subjects, get on in life and find rewarding work.

But it’s not just about literacy and numeracy. Even the best-performing nations say the number one issue in education is to better equip school leavers with the broader skills needed for working life, and we are no exception.  Employers still find that some young people lack the initiative, problem-solving and communication skills to succeed at work.

But this survey should fuel optimism that the best and brightest firms are continuing to invest in education, work with schools and colleges and maintain their own investment in training.