More than one in three businesses who took on North East school leavers rated their recruits as unprepared for work, a new survey has found.
The UK Commission for Employment and Skills, which is part of the Department for Business, asked organisations who took on 17 to 18-year-olds how they felt their new employees shaped up.
More than one in three employers in this region said the teens were “poor” or “very poor” – almost 20% more than the national average, and placing Newcastle and Sunderland behind the likes of Liverpool and Manchester.
When the question was asked of 16-year-old recruits, the proportion of dissatisfied firms rose to 38% in Newcastle.
A lack of experience of working life was the top reason cited by the city’s employers as the quality lacking from their 17 to 18 year old workers.
> Huh ? They’ve just left school ! How much experience do you expect them to have ?
That was followed by a poor attitude or personality, and a lack of the required skills.
> Lack of skillls ? Well, aren’t you supposed to teach them those skills ?
Poor attitude or personality ? Yeah, are you really the best judge of that, Mr Boss ? Not on the available evidence…
In response both the North East Chamber of Commerce and regional representatives of the Federation of Small Businesses renewed calls for greater links between industry and schools.
“There’s been a real debate for a long while about work readiness, and not just about school leavers, but about people leaving colleges as well,” said Ted Salmon, chairman of the FSB in the North East.
“Sometimes basic things are lacking – it’s not just about maths and English, but about the ability to interact with people, to write business letters or emails, and to get to work on time.
“And we can debate over what subjects are right to help people into work – but it needs to be part of a wider debate between business and education over how we can encourage more interaction.”
> What they really want is a conveyor-belt of disposable, low-wage slaves that already have all the skills even though they don’t know what job they might be doing.
Mr Salmon expressed concern at the apparent difficulties of speaking to schools in a non enterprise day context, with teachers nervous that closer ties with business could mean extra work for themselves or their pupils on top of the usual curriculum.
“Half the battle is showing teachers how what they already do can relate to business,” said Mr Salmon, “and just to even start that is so difficult because there are so many league tables and exam pressures.
“But when you go in and see the children on an enterprise day you see how switched on they are by it – so we need to break down that barrier and the frustrating lack of communication between schools and business.”
> Perhaps some teachers can see all too clearly where its all leading…
NECC director of policy, Ross Smith, agreed. “Links between education and business are essential to ensure we are producing young people who are ready to fill roles within the North East labour market and are comfortable in the working environment,” he said.
> 16-hour a week cleaning jobs ? Zero-hour contracts ? That seems to be mainly what’s on offer in my job searches within the North East labour market.
“Likewise, we must take the fear out of employing, training or simply giving experience to young people. According to our own 2014 Workforce Survey, businesses see this as costly, time-consuming and restrictive – this must be addressed.
> Or they could see it as an investment in the future. They always used to. But now, of course, its anything for a quick profit, including the workforce.
“A great deal of progress has been made in recent years, but we must continue to work hard if we are to make significant in-roads into addressing regional youth unemployment and potential skills shortages in key sectors in our region.”
> No, a great deal of progress has not been made – we’ve gone backwards, so that now everyone is expected to be fully trained before they start the job.
NECC’s own 2014 Workforce Survey actually painted a bleaker picture of what the region’s firms think of teenagers, with almost three quarters of employers reporting that sixth formers and college leavers were unprepared for work.
> Probably not as bleak a picture as what teenagers think of employers !
Just over half also complained that graduates were not ready – with the main reason given being a lack of work experience.
> Because they’ve just left school ! Good grief, it makes you wonder about the idiots running these companies… or perhaps not.
However, almost a third of the businesses surveyed admitted they don’t offer work experience placements to school pupils, with many saying that placements were too costly and time consuming, or that the requirements set by schools and colleges were too restrictive.
However 52% said they current offer apprenticeships for 16 to 24 year-olds .
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Dec 2014
The North East could be set to suffer from the biggest cut in the public sector workforce for more than half a century, an influential think tank has warned.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the public sector outside the NHS and schools could see a 40% cut in its workforce over the next five years if those areas continue to be protected by Government.
Those cuts would disproportionately fall on regions like the North East with high levels of public sector employment, the IFS report says.
The report says the North East is almost “breaking even” with private sector jobs being created to replace lost jobs in the public sector.
But there are fears that further cuts could have a knock-on effect for small businesses.
Luke Sibieta, researcher with the IFS, said the percentage of workforce in the public sector was largest in the North East and smallest in London, the West Midlands and the South East.
The IFS also found private employment rose by more in every region than public employment has fallen since the start of the decade – apart from the North East.
He said: “In every region the private sector is growing more quickly than the public sector but the North East is interesting. In the North East, the private sector just about matched the public sector, whereas in most regions the private sector is by far outstripping the public sector.
“We won’t know exactly what impact this will have until we see what the job losses are.”
The study shows how 26% of people in employment in the North East work for the public sector – a figure 3% higher than the national average and thought to be the reason why the region has the highest unemployment rate in the country.
Ted Salmon, FSB North East Regional Chairman, said: “There’s no doubt that the private sector in the North East is growing and we can’t see any reason why this should diminish over the next few years. Our members across the region are reporting increased confidence and are more optimistic for the future. This should see an increase in business investment and more taking on staff to meet ambitious growth plans.
“The cuts to staffing in the public sector will have an impact on businesses, especially in areas like retail where there will be less discretionary spend. It could also have an impact on small businesses supplying the public sector as relationships built up will be lost and smaller contracts get amalgamated into bigger proposals.”
Ross Smith, head of policy for the NECC, said: “If you look at a whole series of economic projections then it does point to the need for quite significant cuts in public spending and what we need is some real honesty about where they are going to fall so businesses can prepare and plan.
“Businesses here have shown real resilience and we are confident that we can face up to the challenges.
“At the moment we are seeing significant employment growth and that is testament to the strong performance of our businesses because that growth has not come from the public sector.
“The public sector is a big customer of businesses in the North East. It will make a big difference to them if it is a case of turning off the tap overnight but if it is a proper plan then businesses will have a chance to adapt.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 15 Feb 2014