What exactly is the much discussed gap between business and education? I see it as the difference between what young people are taught and what employers actually need most from them.
West Norfolk employers it seems are clear about their requirements. When asked, they said that the entry level skills they value most are communication, literacy and numeracy, teamwork, IT and planning and organisation.
These soft skills, and accessing a future workforce, are key issues for our local business community, and at Norfolk Chamber we’re passionate about helping.
Frankly, there are some barriers. Research revealed that staff time and administration were problems for schools and businesses alike. Businesses also cited cost as a factor.
But in the same breath, when surveyed by the British Chambers of Commerce, 3,500 businesses and educators across the UK highlighted significant benefits of partnerships between schools and businesses.
The education sector reported that employer engagement delivered clear benefits for pupils, including greater awareness of those soft skills, increased motivation in lessons, better careers information and lessons which are more relevant to the world of work. Local business leaders stated that the main reasons for partnering with a school were to demonstrate corporate social responsibility, to identify future employees, and to increase awareness of different jobs and career paths.
So it’s a two way street. Business needs to understand the world that schools have to operate in and how they can support them.
High on the list of possible actions comes companies offering ‘work experience’; even a short time within a business can enthuse a young person, and inspire the future workforce.
Our Chamber Career Events are proving more than useful and businesses offering their time to help with them is another valid bridge building exercise. If you would like to take part and support us, with our partners, help West Norfolk’s young people do let us know.
As I said, it’s a two way street and schools need to address issues such as embedding key skills for work into the curriculum. They also need to help bridge the language gap between students and business and to enable businesses to work more closely with their students for mutual benefit.
A two way street is good. But we need to make sure we manage the traffic flow - in both directions!