Although there has been a reported decrease in the number of unemployed 16-24 year olds, it is still concerning that this figure is just under the one million mark, proving that there is large number of young people who need a helping hand.

More alarming are recent figures released by the University and College Union (UCU) union which revealed that out of 1,000 youngsters aged between 16 and 24 who took part in the survey, more than a third rarely left the house and 36% believe they will never have a chance of getting a job.

With a number of options available to young people, such as sixth form, college, university, Apprenticeships, BTECs, NVQs – the list goes on – it can be a confusing time when they leave school or college, with pressure to make the right decision.

As a former head teacher and now managing director of Visions Learning Trust University Technical College (UTC) I have been liaising with employers over the past 18 months to develop a curriculum which will directly meet the needs of their business.

UTCs are a priority for the government and offer technical training for 14-19 year olds and specialise in specific sectors, so we have developed a number of employer-led projects that will enable the learners to develop first-hand the skills, knowledge and aptitude that businesses need.

With hours similar to the working week, learners will have the opportunity to learn what it’s like to work in engineering and construction and thereby improve their future career prospects. They will have the opportunity to showcase themselves and it will also give employers and universities the chance to talent-spot graduates and potential workers of the future.

Statistics show that nearly one in ten students were believed to be unemployed six months after graduating from UK universities, so I am delighted to see that at our UTC employers and our sponsor universities are working together to give the learners a real insight into what is needed to be successful in the workplace. Whether the learners decide to go on to Apprenticeships at age 16, 18, or gain a degree before going into employment I believe that the head-start they will receive through their education within the UTC will make the learners highly competent individuals who will thrive in a work-place environment.

We have worked really hard to establish good relationships with our businesses and universities across the North West. From talking to them we know that a number of employers have struggled to recruit young people of the requisite quality as they feel they lack the technical skills they require. This is why educational establishments need to work more closely with businesses in order that the skillset they want and need for their business can be identified. This is not just about technical skills – good personal skills are also vital.

This is evidenced in the results of a survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and education group Pearson. From 294 respondents, 45% reported that many applicants with the right technical skills did not have the right attitude for work whilst 39% said they often lacked any general work experience.

In my opinion if education establishments work together with businesses to understand their operations, objectives, needs and requirements, they can better prepare people for the ‘world of work’ so the transition from education to business isn’t as daunting and the employer gets someone who can quickly adapt to work life and has the right attitude and experience to make a difference from day one.

Martin Callagher is managing director of Visions Learning Trust, a University Technical College (UTC) which will provide technical training to 14 to 19 year olds in and around Burnley, Lancashire.


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Alex McCann

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