By Daniel Hunter

Young people are missing out on important work experience opportunities due to a lack of engagement by local businesses, according to new research from the Transformation Trust.

The research asked teachers about the challenges faced by students from disadvantaged areas in accessing employability opportunities – for example work experience placements or mentoring schemes. Findings have shown that the majority of respondents (82%) do not believe that businesses in their local area do enough to engage young people.

The types of businesses teachers would most like to see working closely with them to provide employability opportunities are small businesses (93%) and larger regional companies (89%). One teacher commented “more needs to be done and employers need to build relationships with schools and students” whilst another remarked “communication [from local businesses] is the most important, what is available and where and when”.

Teachers were also asked about their attitudes towards employability opportunities for young people from disadvantaged areas. All teachers agreed that work experience opportunities are helpful in developing employability skills in students, particularly their confidence, aspirations and social skills.

However, they also recognised that students from disadvantaged backgrounds face significant barriers to accessing these opportunities. The most significant barriers are perceived as low aspirations, poor self-esteem and reduced government funding for careers support.

One teacher said in reference to the barriers facing children in disadvantaged areas: “They don’t have the life experiences due to financial, cultural and religious constraints to participate in activities which nurture their soft skills allowing them to be strong candidates against other students who perhaps live in less disadvantaged areas.”

Another commented: “They have a lot more to adapt to — many of them have no role models in their lives who are in full-time employment. Therefore, accessing employability opportunities means pulling themselves out of ‘the norm’ and going above and beyond. This can be very challenging”.

Access to work experience at a young age was also perceived as being important, as 96.4% of the teachers said that it is important for students to have access to employability opportunities prior to starting their GCSEs.

“This research shows that teachers have a clear awareness of the barriers facing young people from disadvantaged areas who want to access opportunities that will help them engage with the world of work. There is a keen desire to see these opportunities provided by businesses from the local area,” Amy Leonard, Chief Executive of the Transformation Trust said.

“We know from experience that local businesses want to engage with schools too, but all too often don’t know where to start or how to reach the right people. This is where the Transformation Trust can help with the launch of our new Hub, linking up businesses and schools to provide young people with the opportunities they really need to get on.”

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