By Daniel Hunter

The planned overhaul of GCSE exams needs to help young people get the right skills for the workplace say small business owners. Recent research suggests five in 10 small firms believe young people lack a good attitude to work as well as other skills such as problem solving.

The Government consultation on GCSE reform has now closed and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) believes it is vital that changes do not just focus on grades alone. Employers need the staff of the future to have much wider skills, such as communication, problem solving and a good attitude to work.

Further research by the FSB suggests small firms believe numeracy (37%) and literacy (41%) are skills lacking in young people.

The FSB suggests the Government should consider a pass/fail exam for these functional skills giving employers a clearer understanding of ability.

Indeed there must be more time in the school day to give students quality careers education and guidance. More than half (61%) of small firms are not confident they will find the right young person for the job.

Finally the FSB stresses how any change to the GCSE system must be clearly communicated to the 4.8 million small businesses in the UK. They need to know what exam grades mean when recruiting staff.

"It's a nerve-wracking time waiting for your results that will set you on the career path, be it carrying on to do A-Levels or moving onto vocational qualifications such as an apprenticeship. Those young people about to leave education need to know they have been taught the skills needed for today's competitive workplace," John Allan, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said.

"We want to see employability and personal skills embedded in everyday teaching and schools must focus on this alongside academic rigour. Young people need to know about business; what the workplace expects of them and how to pursue careers that suit their skills. They also need to be inspired. With any changes to the GCSE system, the Government must ensure they are clearly communicated to employers so they know what they mean.

"Many small businesses are keen to play their part to help improve employability skills and to teach young people about business and the workplace. Our members are already involved with charities such as ‘Young Enterprise' or sit on schools' governing bodies.

"Business recognises the important role it has to play and we are also running events around the country to help bring businesses, schools and colleges together to forge lasting partnerships. The FSB will continue to promote the benefits of engaging with schools in this way."

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