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Postiwyd Gan Frequency on Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Here at CBSA we do a great deal of work, up and down Wales, aiming to help unemployed young people into work. We also run some initiatives which try to work with younger people who are still at school in the hope that, with early intervention, we may help reduce the numbers that become NEET.
The most disturbing thing that I have witnessed is that unless a young person is academic and will achieve some ‘results’ then the school does very little to prepare that individual for the world of work. If by some chance the individual is considered to be somewhat disruptive then they are very likely to end up leaving school without much to show for it.
We often find that young adults leave education and don’t know how to answer a telephone, have no idea about body language, have no appreciation about how and who makes decisions that affect their lives, cannot communicate unless it’s through texting and they certainly do not know how to speak to adults.
It might also be interesting to note that our members (over 2000 Welsh businesses) tell us that it is not only school leavers who are hopelessly equipped for the world of work but a high percentage of graduates are not ready either.
Now I know that most of you will think that this is the exception and that it only applies to a small number of young people but let me tell you that it is common and that I am coming to the view that society is failing them.
Let me make it clear from the outset that it is wrong to blame the schools. We must look at the massive changes in society and the family unit on the one hand and government and its total fascination with academic results on the other.
Our responsibility to the young is primarily to do all in our power to produce responsible productive adults and people with values, standards, ambition, a focus and with a sense of purpose. In the past that was a duty shared between the family unit and the school and more often than not, it was a contract delivered.
What made it work was an unspoken but universal partnership between the school and Mum and Dad. Both were working from the same page and both were actively involved. The other factor that helped tremendously was the fact that schools had the freedom to develop young people beyond academic targets.
Now we live in a different world, one with different structures both in terms of the family unit and in terms of Government control of education.
Families with both parents working full-time, single parent families and a growing number of second and third generation benefits reliant family units has meant that in a growing number of cases the ‘family’ end of the contract is failing to deliver.
Clearly there is no easy or quick solution to this situation, so we must look to the schools to do more in terms of getting our young people ready for the real world rather than the singular and protected world of academia.
If the family unit in some cases cannot or will not be part of the solution then the school must be supported, funded, and required to do more.
There is no other way to change things, no other way to break the cycle, no other way to change behaviour and culture than catching them early and teaching them ‘right’ and by that I don’t mean exam results.
Those who are academically competent must continue to receive the best education we can offer. Only an idiot will argue against that. In Wales our education system ‘must do better’ as we are falling behind not only the UK but most of Europe and herein lays one of the dangers.
A focus on academic performance tables has diverted our attention locally (between schools), regionally (between geographic areas), on a UK level and on a global front. This has led to schools, our teachers and now our politicians being judged on how many pass at which grade and whether the grades should be adjusted. What about the majority of young people who will not go to university? What happens to them? WHO MEASURES PERFORMANCE BY HOW MANY RESPONSIBLE ADULTS LEAVE EDUCATION?
Who measures a good school by how well they produce young people ready for the world of work?
The problem here is that Government decides what schools should focus on and they have got the balance between academic results and non-academic achievement totally and shamefully wrong.
Government will point to the new support for apprenticeships and to a very wide choice of studies but it is simply not good enough. The UK counts apprenticeships in ‘hundreds while Germany counts them in tens of thousands. It is time we woke up.
In reality this is not a simple argument between the relative values of degrees or apprenticeships as we need both, it is far more important than that. The real issue here is how much we invest in our system to produce responsible adults first and foremost and can we trust politicians to get it right?
Politicians have to realise that thousands of young people leave education early and totally unprepared for work or for adulthood. Passing the problem on to others like careers companies or expensive Government schemes to deal with is too late and a criminal false economy. Prevention is better than cure.
The private sector must also realise that they must engage with schools more and do their share in tackling this issue. It is definitely time to change our thinking.
Cyflwyniad Mike Theodoulou