Sunday, December 15, 2013

How Do You Develop a Working Culture within Society?

Britain, for example, differs from countries like France, Spain and Japan in not having a ‘job for life’ culture – where sacking middle-aged workers is easier than almost anywhere else in the world.
The good news, at least, may be that Britain’s economy is finally crawling out of recession since the International Monetary Fund upgraded the UK’s growth forecast for 2013 – but the recovery is far from evenly spread. In London and the south-east, house prices and employment are soaring, but in areas in the north-east around Teesside there is precious little sign of improvement – where the local unemployment rate is almost twice the national average, at 13%.
The problem seems to be at least two-fold – firstly cities and towns in the UK, for example, need to learn how to reinvent themselves; and that can mean thinking completely out of the box. Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution, a Washington based think-tank, believes the US has learnt the hard way, saying ‘in America, cities that decline must redefine themselves. Like a man who has lost weight, they have to get new clothes that fit – shrinking their boundaries and ambitions; where unfortunately Britain’s failing towns struggle on indefinitely in their old industrial shape and size.’ But others may highlight areas in the US around New Orleans, Detroit and Michigan, where parts of the community can resemble a ghost town, thus challenging Katz’s optimistic view.
Even taking the problems of location out of the equation, the Economist highlights how “young Britons not only lack abstract literacy and numeracy skills they also join the labour market with little work experience and practical training – at least that’s what businesses seem to find and/or think,” (p.33).
One study by the British Chamber of Commerce concluded that many leave education with ‘fairly useless’ degrees in non-serious subjects; and another by the Confederation of British Industry found bosses disappointed by the disorganization of school-leavers and their general attitude to work.
Yet on a positive note, one school based in Birmingham has experimented with a ‘business-friendly’ curriculum since 2000, when Digby Jones, a former head of the CBI, accused the education system of failing employers. This led to Richard Riley, a teacher at Small Heath School, writing to Mr Jones asking him what should be done; leading to him and his colleagues injecting workplace practices into school life.
Today you’ll find that science, maths and technology modules are accompanied by presentations about related careers. Unusually for a school, Small Heath has CBI membership, which gives it useful networks with businesses and where, for example, Aston Villa football club has commissioned the statistics class to redesign a network for young supporters and where Birmingham Airport hosts food technology exercises and back at the school, pupils are taught how to prepare in-flight meals.
The good news is that their approach seems to be working as the school has not only made good academic progress, which is one thing – but last year 223 of its 224 leavers went into employment or further education.
This is even more impressive considering the school is in one of the most deprived areas of the city where currently 43% of 16 to 18-year-olds aren’t in school or working.
The bad news, which is so often the case with these great stories, is why do these ‘great schemes’ always seem to be the exception rather than the rule. You don’t have to be a genius to realise the more you prepare youngsters for work, the greater the chance they have to find work – not only because they have some skills and experience, but because they are additionally inspired through the experience and exposure to want to work in certain sectors.
Gisela Stuart, the MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, argues that schools should be judged not just on their examination results but on also whether they nurture an aptitude for the workplace – where more schools should invite businesses into their classroom. It’s just a shame that she feels she has to argue a point that to many in business would think is an approach that makes logical common sense.
Society sometimes blames the ‘younger generation’ for not having what ‘they’ determine to be a ‘working culture’ – but surely it’s society; the media; educationalists; politicians and business leaders that must guide students by ‘showing them a positive future’ that reinforces the benefits of embracing a ‘positive working culture’ – and that responsibility can start today.
Capitalists in the classroom. The Economist. 12-18 October, 2013. p. 33.
The urban ghosts: These days the worst urban decay is found not in big cities but in small ones. The Economist. 12-18 October, 2013. p.31-32.

No comments:

Post a Comment