Businesses have said they want character and broader skills, from team leadership to problem solving, to be embedded in the educational curriculum to a much greater extent.

This call by the CBI comes after one of its surveys found 44% of employers saying that young people leaving school, college or university are not ready for the world of work.

It would seem that many of the young people concerned agree with this assessment as almost one in four of those aged between 17 and 23 do not feel adequately prepared for the workplace.

Furthermore, 47% of teachers said that there were fewer opportunities to develop employability skills and competencies due to changes in GCSEs and A-Levels, citing a new focus on rote learning as a detriment to developing the skills and attitudes needed for work.

In a new CBI report (Getting young people work ready), employers identify three broad areas that are essential for the world of work — character, knowledge, and skills.

John Cope, CBI Head of Education & Skills, said: “Too often, young people are left feeling unprepared for work and employers feel the same when those starting out join their companies. Young people have knowledge and potential in abundance, but the rounded character, real world experience and creativity needed to apply knowledge is sometimes lacking”.

The report can be found at

Changing the system

The CBI argues that the Government, supported by a greater contribution from employers, should:

  • rethink the role and form of GCSEs in an education and training system that goes to 18, rather than 16

  • reform the English Baccalaureate to ensure it fully encompasses a “broad and balanced” curriculum, especially when it comes to creativity

  • develop a shared understanding of what “character” really means with educators, government and employers — starting with the Skills Builder framework

  • better co-ordinate the support available to young people from government, employers and educators — including the integration of the Careers Strategy and Youth Charter.

Comment from Peninsula Group Operations Director and HR expert Alan Price

We are yet to see if the CBI’s recommendations will be adopted by the Government but this demonstrates to employers the advantages of being prepared to provide further support for young people entering the working world for the first time.

Many employers will likely employ young people, including those fresh out of school and university, and should not be put off from doing so despite the stage they are at in their career.

Younger workers can be invaluable to a company, bringing fresh ideas to its operation and having a significant input into its ongoing development. By encouraging young people still in education to develop specific skills that will help them to succeed within a role in their company, employers can help to produce a stronger candidate for future employment opportunities.

Although it may not be feasible for all companies to liaise directly with schools or universities in this way, it is still crucial that strong training methods are maintained that are designed to help professional development.

Last reviewed 8 July 2019