At the heart of our current treadmill education system is a fundamental assumption: good grades guarantee places in “good” universities or higher education institutions (HEIs), which, in turn, guarantees a “good” job and a competitive job value. market.
Our whole educational system is built on the idea of this smooth ascending chain.
While the government exerts energy to keep the first link too well oiled, the second link is completely broken. The demands of the UK economy and the output of its HEIs are terribly unmatched, barely 56 percent of graduates in full-time employment 15 months after leaving university.
The same time, The Institute of Learning and Work estimates that, by 2030, there could be up to 17.4 million high-skilled jobs with only 14.8 million high-skilled workers to fill them, while 5.1 million low-skilled people are looking for two million low-skilled jobs.
Also, last week the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change published a new reportrecommending that the government set new targets to encourage 70% of young people to pursue higher education by 2040.
Ready for the world?
But before we focus on how many young people we get into universities or other institutions, we need to look at what they do once they get there. In research 2019 from Pearson Business School, nearly half (48%) of HR managers surveyed said graduates lacked leadership skills.
Graduates were also unable to negotiate (44% of managers found graduates lacking) and strategize (38%).
It seems that employers are well aware of the growing gap between the world of work and the world of education.
During the Education Committee’s inquiry into post-16 qualifications, MPs heard evidence that 60% of recruitment professionals now rely on alternative assessment techniques rather than academic achievement to select candidates for positions.
In fact, according to Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of QA Ltd and Be The Business, when his company reviewed technology and IT vacancies posted on job boards, the topics for degrees are ranked 12th on the list of employers’ priorities.
Meanwhile, the UK is being left behind in the global battle for investment as more and more skilled workers from other economies attract business. Sunday, a new report from the Skills Taskforce for Global Britain found that 61% of overseas businesses said they would expand overseas if they couldn’t get the skills they need in the UK.
This should worry the government.
We must change
The world of work is changing rapidly and if our education system cannot keep up with it, the UK may no longer be relevant. Vacancies in the technology and IT sector have increased by 50% in the space of a year.
This is an opportunity that the government must seize to accelerate the evolution of education. In short, we must abandon the notion of the ascending chain of education, and promote a more porous relationship between education – at all levels – and the world of work.
First, more emphasis needs to be placed on work experience, both in school and after age 16. In 2021, just 17 percent of students, responding to a Perspectives survey, say they have had work experience during the past year.
This could easily be amended: at present, too few courses and schools integrate professional experience into their curriculum.
It is also necessary to leave the framework of the vats and the university, still held in high esteem by schools and parents. Why? Statistics from the FFT Education Datalab suggest that students taking Btecs earn slightly more at age 22 than those taking A levels.
As the government embarks on the move to T-levels, it needs to ensure not only that they provide excellent education and career prospects for young people, but that they are promoted in a way that makes it accessible and attractive.
We have heard that schools, in their attempts to win the “grades race” for college places, are encouraged to stick to the status quo. Instead, our system should be about helping young people get the best results for them. It is a question of rebalancing so that the professional, technical and academic sectors are valued on an equal footing.
This week Lord Willetts, the former mMinister of State for University and Science, told the Commons Education Select Committee that educating 16-18 year olds is “going in the wrong direction”. I am okay.
An IB type rating for England
Instead of our more traditional academic pathways, we should consider introducing an International Baccalaureate-type qualification, as is currently the case in over 150 other countries around the world, where students would study a wider range of subjects academic and technical.
The government must give as much importance to skills as to university studies.
The recently released Schools White Paper had a strong emphasis on a “knowledge-rich” curriculum, but we should also be talking about a “skill-rich” curriculum – one that goes hand in hand with knowledge.
This should not only concern education pathways after the age of 16, but should also be integrated earlier, into pre-16 education.
Despite significant achievements over the past decade, evidence suggests that too many young people are leaving university without the jobs they need or without the skills required for the job market.
The government says it wants an employer-led system. If this is indeed the case, then much more emphasis needs to be placed on encouraging young people to undertake apprenticeships to meet the modern skills needs of employers.
Tony Blair’s recent report called for a target of 70% of students going to university by 2040. Instead, we should have a target of 50% of young people pursuing apprenticeships, especially degree-based apprenticeships .
The essential task of any education system is to better prepare students for the world of work and we must begin to restore this balance.
Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow and former Skills Minister, is chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee