Sunday, March 10, 2013

Are Business and Education in Sync?

In an article by Carol Lewis (The Times, 7th March 2013), she comments that “the education system, careers services and companies are failing to equip the workforce of the future with the skills they need to revive the economy,” (p.46).
In the same article Neil Carberry, director of employment and skills at the CBI, agreed that “there are three things we need to achieve: inspiration, opportunity and employment. Businesses are at the heart of a delivering all three. There has never been a golden age of careers advice. It’s just that in the past, the economy was simple enough for people to muddle through to finding work.”
What we need and what makes sense is for business and education to collaborate to ensure that communities and countries develop the right skills for their future business development – otherwise the outlook will be bleak, where we could end up with a future state in which parents start to question the basic usefulness of education if they don’t see it providing some form of opportunity for work and employment.
And in a sense it’s already beginning to happen in some areas of Britain, where only last week I visited a College in Essex, where the community is experiencing significant high levels of unemployment and as I walked from the station to the College I could see the signs of neglect, where gardens were overgrown and littered with rubbish – and where passing a couple in my suit and tie, I heard one say to the other, ‘hmm, he must be lost.’  The vice principal made it clear that they have parents at the moment that have given up and genuinely don’t see the benefit in their children going to school and getting an education.
It’s quite a condemnation on society when you encounter such a drastic reaction to education, especially when most parents only want the best for their children and normally will do anything they can to help them have a better life than their parents had. Where in the past parents wanted their children to get an education to enable them to move out of the area and create a better life for themselves. So there is something very wrong when parents in disadvantaged areas start to question the very fabric of education – no longer seeing it adding value to their child’s prospects for the future.
Richard Sykes, the chief executive of ISS UK, a facility service company says that “if you get to pupils early enough and keep in touch, then you have a chance to inspire. If it is too late, or irregular, then it won’t be integrated into their life. The challenge is that there isn’t the bandwidth in the curriculum for regular interaction (with business);” and Nansi Ellis, the head of education, policy and research at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, emphasises that “employment skills are broader than work skills and encompass communication and the ability to form relationships. Who knows where the economy will go, but the skills of communicating, thinking and reflecting will be vital whatever happens. This makes it critical that we broaden today’s debate from just being about employability.”
Matt Hancock the Skills Minister, was adamant that the education system did not need a radical overhaul, which sounds more like a defensive response rather than an enlighten one; though Carol Lewis does mentions that “it appears that collaboration between schools and business was not lacking, although it might sometimes be misguided.”
What education establishments need to do is to optimise their own ‘natural’ business networks through their community and their alumni, where important business sector knowledge and experience can be fed back to pupils in a ‘real time’ fashion so that pupils have no illusions about their chosen career path and are much more prepared when it comes time to look for gainful employment – able to look at careers they have researched and discussed in advance, rather than looking for the first available vacancy, just to ‘get a job.’
This way business and education can streamline and optimise the future manpower needs of business, ensuring a greater benefit for everyone involved.
Lewis, C. (2013). Business must take the lead in giving the next generation the skills to rebuild Britain. The Times, 7th March 2013, p.46.

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