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Future possible – future perfect?

With the next government clearly in mind, the CBI has called upon schools to join business and government in doing more to get young people ready for work and to end the scourge of youth unemployment. In Future possible: the business vision for giving young people the chance they deserve, the CBI welcomes the latest fall in youth unemployment to a five-year low but with 767,000 young people still out of work (a rate of 16.9%), it argues that even more needs to be done to avoid squandering the talent of a generation.


The report recognises that the present system does not incentivise schools to prepare young people for work or to prevent students from becoming unemployed. It highlights five main shortcomings:

  • the narrow fixation on exam results
  • a skewed Ofsted inspection framework
  • inadequate statutory guidance on careers guidance
  • the abolition of the requirement for work-related learning
  • a flawed funding mechanism which encourages schools to retain students whether it is in their best interests or not.

All these factors militate against schools putting effort into ensuring that young people are ‘rounded and grounded for working life and all that entails’. The CBI wants the next government to still demand improvements in education attainment and to ensure that there are clear, equally valued academic and vocational routes, but they also want the government to task schools with achieving a broader set of outcomes linked to the development of character. This theme of the development of character is one which has been prominent in recent CBI reports and although it is expressed in an old-fashioned way, career development practitioners will recognise that it is talking about equipping young people with the psychological resources and skills (such as work readiness, employability, enterprise, adaptability, resilience, hope and optimism) to enable them to succeed in work and life.


Future Possible makes a spirited attempt to draft a series of recommendations that pull together the disparate strands of the government’s youth employment initiatives and its policy of transferring responsibility for careers guidance to schools which the CBI says has failed.


The report makes four sets of recommendations that are aimed at government and business.

1. Preparing young people for work

“Business will judge the next government on their commitment to…

Reforming Ofsted so that schools prioritise both academic progress and the development of character
Reinstating the duty for schools to provide work-related learning at Key Stage 4 for the 2015/16 academic year
Ensuring a national guarantee of quality careers guidance and work experience is in place, run locally and supported by Local Brokers – with the aim of helping young people build networks with employers for work experience, internships and apprenticeships.

…and to support the next government business should:

Increase the number of businesses with links to local educational establishments. This means engaging with programmes to ensure staff can actively support the delivery of inspirational work experience and careers guidance and offering talks in schools.” (p.6)


2. Ensuring young people have access to high quality academic and vocational qualifications and pathways that are right for them

“Business will judge the next government on their commitment to…

Developing a gold standard vocational equivalent to A-levels
Progressing apprenticeship reforms to make them employer-led – including on funding
Reforming the way schools are funded to ensure all young people are supported to progress onto the right route for them, regardless of whether this is at the same institution or a different option
Pressing forward with the development of a UCAS style system for vocational qualifications for young people

…and to support the next government business should:

Review their talent pipeline and consider expanding apprenticeship programmes
Sign up to promotional commitments on the value of vocational education, like the 5% Club.” (p. 8)


3. Helping young people into employment

“Business will judge the next Government on their commitment to…

Retaining the LPC as the independent arbiter of the NMW
Retaining the age related structure of NMW rates.

To better support young people business should…

Work to ensure all vacancies are advertised through formal as well as informal channels, including social media
Work to routinely provide constructive feedback to young people invited to interview or an assessment centre and, for those who don’t reach this stage, provide a general list of “top tips” to help them be more successful next time
Acknowledge receipt of all job applications as standard.” (p.11)


4. Helping unemployed young people get back into work

“Business will judge the next Government on their commitment to…

The creation of local Back to Work Coordinators who will work to ensure that young people always know where to turn
Simplifying the complex web of back to work support that currently exists to better support young people.” (p.13)


One of the most interesting features of the CBI report is its emphasis on the need for a national system of local brokers to ensure that young people receive high quality careers guidance and work-related learning. Before 2010, England had a system of local connexions services and education-business partnerships (sometimes one and the same organisation) which tried to achieve this with mixed success. Re-building the national system will not guarantee consistency, sustainability or quality but it will be taking a step in the right direction. Surprisingly, the CBI makes no mention of a role for the National Careers Service in its proposed new system. Surely, it is time to re-invoke the 2010 vision of a pro-active, all-age careers guidance service and make it part of the solution?


Download the report here

1 comment

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  • Anthony

    Frank Furedi’s latest blog criticises education for taking up fadish ideas about resilience. In particular, he takes issue with organisations such as the CBI for conceptualsing resilience as a character-building moral crusade.

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