A recent report from the House of Lords committee on social mobility has shone a light on the failure of traditional education to employment pathways for many young people.
The findings indicate that government policy has focused almost exclusively on two extremes; young people taking A levels and heading for university and those that drop out the system entirely and are not in education, employment or training (neet).
Yet the majority of young people don’t take either of these routes and for them there is a confusing, impenetrable mess of information which bewilders both young people and employers. The consequence of which is that intelligent young people fall into unfulfilling, low paid, dead end jobs which don’t utilise their skills and abilities.
On reading the report I find that as stark as it is awful. The majority of young people do not fulfil their potential. The systems which are supposed to help propel them forward from education to employment are so poor that most young people never have a rewarding job. These are talents the UK cannot afford to squander.
Part of the problem is that spending on further education has been brutally cut, whilst funding favours academic routes quite significantly. Despite the fact that 53% of young people do not go to university, the report estimates that there is a difference of approximately £6,000 a year per student between the public funding of young people attending further education colleges and university.
Apprenticeships, an area of massive expansion by the government, are chosen by just 6% of young people with 41% of apprenticeships taken by people aged over 25.
The report describes a kind of nightmare catch 22, where because of the emphasis put on academic achievement through funding and other incentives, young people come to view vocational education as a failure. This despite the fact that the majority of young people do not choose an academic route.
The answer to this cycle of negativity, poor self esteem and ultimately low pay, is establishing a more coherent policy which allows schools to create a curriculum to specifically handle these transitions more effectively.
Employers also need young people to acquire life skills not just exam results – as Lord Holmes who is sits on the social mobility committee commented “[we need] far more focus on skills rather than subjects and resilience rather than rote learn.”
This report needs to kickstart a step change in creating clearer routes for young people from education to employment – we can’t afford to wait any longer.