School-leavers need better workplace skills, say business groups

Young people in the UK are leaving school unprepared for employment and the workplace, business groups have said. 

Recent research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found that half of small firms believe young people are leaving school with a poor attitude to work and without key employment skills such as problem solving.

Lack of basic numeracy and literacy skills were also a concern for small employers.

Some business groups are arguing that GCSE examinations need to be overhauled in order to improve the skills and employability of students. The comments follow a recent Government consultation into GCSE reforms and this month's A-level results.

The FSB said it was vital that any changes to the current examination system did not 'focus on grades alone.' "Employers need the staff of the future to have much wider skills, such as communication, problem solving and a good attitude to work," it said.

Commenting on the recent A-level results, the British Chambers of Commerce's employment and skills adviser, John Wastnage, said: "It should of course be celebrated that academic achievement amongst school-leavers has remained high. However youth unemployment has risen in recent months and it is clear that there are far too many young people whose potential is being undermined because they have not been taught the broader skills required to succeed in the workplace - despite the strong desire of employers to hire and train them."

Elsewhere, a recent survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found that a shortage in workplace skills could hold back the UK from long-term growth and damage the country's competitiveness.

Speaking in June, the CBI's director-general, John Cridland, said: "We're facing a critical lack of skills in some key industries, just as the economy starts to pick up. Long-term, sustainable growth will come in part from rebalancing towards high-value products and services, which demand much better technical skills."

"We need to boost our skills base urgently before the UK loses more ground."