In its response to the Richard Review on apprenticeships last week, the Department for Business put the emphasis on employers to set industry standards and tailor apprenticeships to their needs.
On Monday, the Treasury went one step further in its official response to Lord Heseltine’s report on regional growth. By accepting in principle that the skills budget should be devolved to local enterprise partnerships, the government has opened the way to vital collaboration between key regional employers and education providers.
The government has made it very clear that partnerships are what it expects to develop from the new structures: the official response called for a much stronger engagement between business and the education system, ‘to develop young people’s understanding of business, increase their employability, and further their understanding of career and future training options and where they might lead.’
It is unquestionable that businesses up and down the country stand to benefit from access to better developed, more engaged young talent. And as Doug Richard and Lord Heseltine have demonstrated, it is also the responsibility of business to help develop the skills and experiences of these young people.
Through industry-standard apprenticeships, and enhanced relationships with local schools and colleges, employers can outline their own expectations of what graduating college students should achieve within the workplace. It is not sufficient for businesses to sit back and lament the failure of the education system; they must engage and play their part in helping the education system meet the challenges of preparing young people for the modern workplace.
Educators, too, must step up to the challenge that has been laid down by government. When major employers, as a recent BPP survey found, bemoan the abilities of as many as two-thirds of their graduate intake, we need to admit that there is much work to be done from secondary through to further and higher education.
But just as government is cajoling the business community to step out of its silo when it comes to skills training, schools, colleges and universities must seek to engage employers in their own development strategies.
Students and employers are the two groups that the government has focused on in the past week; both stand to benefit from each other, as does the economic landscape on both a local and national scale. If business and education can truly converge and work together towards a significant improvement in skills training for young people, then that will be a legacy of which all can be proud.
Fintan Donohue is CEO of Gazelle Global