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GCSE results: Put business skills at the heart of school education

21 Aug 2015

New survey of IoD members shows importance of developing soft skills and ‘workplace readiness’

The Institute of Directors has congratulated students collecting their GCSE results today and called on the government to make sure that soft skills are put at the heart of the curriculum. 

A new survey of IoD members, released today, shows businesses value soft skills, such as communication, team-working and leadership just as much as academic and technical skills. There are concerns, however, about how well the current schools system equips school leavers with the full range of skills and experience young people will need in the world of work.

In a survey of 1,057 IoD members conducted between 28th July and 13th August 2015: 

  • Seven in ten businesses (68 per cent) said that the communications skills of both school leavers and graduates needed to be improved
  • 44 per cent raised concerns about the ability of school leavers and graduates to work to deadlines
  • More than one-third also said that the problem-solving (38 per cent), resourcefulness (36 per cent) and team-working skills (35 per cent) of school leavers and graduates could be better.

In a sign of how much businesses value practical experience and a first-hand understanding of how businesses operate, half (49 per cent) of all IoD members said they engage directly with schools and education institutions. 

  • More than one third (37 per cent) provide work experience
  • One in six (17 per cent) give employment talks at schools, colleges and universities
  • One in ten (9 per cent) IoD members is either a school governor themselves, or has a staff member who is a school governor
  • Only 1 per cent of IoD members said they had found schools unwilling to engage with them.

Full survey results are below

Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment of Skills Policy at the Institute of Directors, said:

“Well done to all those who received their GCSE results today. Overall these are positive results and students should be congratulated for their dedication and hard-work. GCSE exams are an important milestone in a young person’s education. There are, however, important questions that need to be answered about their future form.

“Exam results are important, but they are only one element of a broad and comprehensive education. We need to make sure that our schools equip young people for the needs of the modern economy. That means making sure they have the skills employers need: the ability to work in a team, solve problems, communicate effectively and show resilience and resourcefulness. These skills need to be built from an early age. It is too late to start teaching them at secondary school. They must be at the heart of the education system from beginning to end.

“The link between schools, young people and employers is vital. Schools want local businesses to engage with them, and there is a great appetite among business leaders to help influence the curriculum and provide training, placements and work experience opportunities for young people. We need to make sure the schools system acknowledges this and factors the needs of employers into what is taught in schools. The first step is to create an exam system which accounts for the vast array of skills our young people need to compete and succeed in the modern economy.”

Full survey results

Survey of 1,057 IoD members conducted through the IoD’s award-winning PolicyVoice panel between 28th July and 13th August 2015.

Q. What areas of workforce readiness do you feel need to be improved? [School leavers and graduates]

Attitude to work

749

71%

Communication

721

68%

Working to deadlines

465

44%

Problem-solving

406

38%

Resourcefulness

378

36%

Team working

373

35%

Following instructions

311

29%

Creativity

228

22%

Multitasking

178

17%

Delegating tasks

91

9%

Other

11

11%

Don’t know

37

4%

Not applicable

37

4%

Q. Does your business collaborate or engage directly with schools or educational institutions?

Yes

520

49%

No

408

39%

Don’t know

8

1%

Not applicable

121

12%

Q. What form does your engagement take? [To 520 who answered ‘Yes’. Percentages are as a total of all IoD members]

Work experience provision

390

37%

Employment talks

176

17%

Apprenticeship/training schemes

172

16%

Graduate/employment fairs

108

10%

I/a member of staff is a school governor

92

9%

I/my business helped to design an education course/qualification

75

7%

Other

78

7%

Don’t know

6

1%

Q. Why doesn’t your business collaborate/engage directly with schools or educational institutions? [To all who answered ‘No’. Percentages are as a total of all IoD members]

This is not an issue for my business

218

21%

Time constraints/business pressures

99

9%

Previous efforts were unsuccessful

43

4%

Schools won’t engage with us

12

1%

Other

54

5%

Don’t know

16

2%


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