March 09, 2014

University feeds the skills gap, Ctd Northern Ireland

The skills gap has been described as one of the 'biggest' threats to the recovery and that careers education is palpably ‘failing young people’. Discussion has been healthy in America, growing in England in Wales, but silent in Northern Ireland.

That's changed. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Northern Ireland has published a critical review of the outworking of relations between schools and employers. The Belfast Telegraph reports here:
"Too many young people are ill-prepared for the job market when they finish full-time education. Advice and guidance offered in the schools is sometimes not given sufficient priority in school activities."
And so:
"The CBI combines a series of critical comments on careers advice with a number of positive suggestions on the ways in which employers can, and should, be more supportive of the challenges faced by schools."
The proposal is for partnerships, linking the place of education with the world of work:
"In support of a major reform in the partnerships between schools and employers, the CBI has relied on a careful first-hand critique of how partnerships (or sometimes the absence of partnerships) are working. The evidence collected by the CBI is critical of the quality of careers advice to many students, is critical of the understanding in some schools of the changing nature and qualifications needed for many jobs, and is concerned that senior business people should play a larger role in assisting the governance of schools."
Here are some of the CBI suggestions on how to improve education and the work-readiness of students:

  • Pledge that 100 business leaders would be willing to act as school governors
  • Provide mandatory work experience for young people, which should be more than one week, over the summer or mid-term breaks
  • Work with the CCEA (the examinations authority) to ensure that qualifications are fit for purpose
  • Foster a school in-year with strategic support in governance, performance management and leadership, as well as supporting a 'teachers in industry' programme
  • Pilot a 'buddy system' for head teachers and chief executives.
  • In support of careers advice within schools, the CBI adds a recommendation that 'all year 10, year 12 and year 13 students should have an interview with a careers adviser from DEL', as a statutory obligation.

Any support from the Minister of Education, John O'Dowd, is now under consideration. Writing here in the Independent Richard Garner said:
"[Neil] Carberry would like to see a VCAS operation set up to rival UCAS – the universities and colleges admissions service which lists every degree course offered at UK universities. A vocation admissions service giving details of everything on offer and what qualifications would be needed for which jobs would be of great benefit to the 50 per cent of young people who do not want to go down the university route."
And more from that Independent article:
"The Confederation of British Industry has been buoyed by the reaction to its seminal report on education 18 months ago – which called on schools to produce “rounded and grounded” young people with communications and problem-solving skills and avoid becoming “exam factories”."
Belfast Telegraph in full here. Independent article in full here.

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