By Marcus Leach

Three out of four firms (75%) feel the British education system is not equipping young people with the skills they need to enter the workforce, according to a new poll of major employers.

This troubling verdict comes in a survey of 28 of this country’s most significant companies and professional bodies conducted for Young Enterprise by the strategic market research company, Freshminds.

The survey respondents were drawn from among Young Enterprise’s corporate supporters. This group included some of Britain’s biggest employers including Cadbury, HSBC, BT, GKN, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Cisco, Citi, Santander and the Chartered Institutes of Accounting and Marketing.

Together the organisations in the survey comprised more than 700,000 employees and members. With 29 million people in employment in this country our sample represents a huge 2.4% chunk of the economy.

Researchers were asked to investigate, in detail, how well Britain’s education system is doing in providing the nation with a supply of ‘work-ready’ young recruits — and the impact of businesses sending volunteers into classrooms to teach young people about the world of work.

The results will be a seen as a wake-up call to the Coalition which has been criticised by companies for downplaying enterprise education in the classroom in favour of a narrower focus on purely academic knowledge and exams. The survey showed:

- Twenty-one major companies (approximately 75%) felt that the British education system is not equipping young people with the right skills for them to enter the workforce.

- Sixteen (59%) felt that the education system was poor at developing young people's entrepreneurial skills

- Eighteen (64%) thought that the education system was poor at developing financial skills among young people.

- Seventeen (61%) said they felt Young Enterprise's activities made a significant difference in filling these gaps and preparing young people for the future.

- Twenty-four (89%) said they thought it was 'very important' for business to be involved in young people's education

When asked what, if any, skills young people lacked that they needed to be employable comments included:

"Too many to list! Commercial awareness, written and spoken English to a high enough level, technical skills, inter-personal skills, you name it."

"Practical application skills to link what they learn academically at school with real life skills in the commercial world."

"The soft skills to enable them to think outside of the box. They need mentors and role models to see why people are successful."

"Acceptance of hierarchy…attention to detail, willingness to be of service to others."

"With a million young people unemployed in this country, this powerful Young Enterprise research is a wake-up call," Young Enterprise chairman Ian Smith said.

"Young recruits are presenting themselves for interview without the vital employability skills that employers look for — such as attendance, punctuality, motivation and a general "can do." Too many businesses are using this lack as an excuse to employ foreign workers or shift work abroad.

"The situation is getting worse because the Department of Education is adopting an alarmingly narrow focus on academic skills and exams which will make it less likely that students emerge from education with these employability skills.

"We believe the Government needs to adjust its approach. It should put enterprise education on the formal National Curriculum. Ministers should also encourage businesses to send staff into schools to help young people learn the world of work. If we do, we can create a step change in the quality of recruits our schools are turning out."

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