Partners launch project to bring employers and schools together

23 September 2014

NFER has launched an exciting new partnership project to improve employability skills among the future workforce by helping employers to engage more effectively with schools and colleges.

In collaboration with South East Strategic Leaders (SESL), the Greater London Authority and London Councils, NFER researchers will identify emerging examples of good practice, and produce resources to support SMEs, micro-businesses, schools and colleges from across London and the South East of England. The South East is home to 798,510 micro businesses and SMEs, the largest of any other region aside from London.

The six-month project, "Starting with the End in Mind", was conceived in response to increasing evidence of a disconnect between the skills young people are leaving school with, and the skills employers really need. In London, for example, unemployment among young people (aged 18-24) is reducing, but at 20.7 per cent still significantly outstrips the overall unemployment rate (8.2 per cent).

Research director Tami McCrone, who is leading the project at NFER, said: “Research evidence tells us that whilst examples of excellent practice between business and schools/colleges exist it cannot be taken for granted that this is widespread. At the same time we also know that skills shortages exist in some areas and over a million young people from years 9 and 11 make important and career informing subject choices every year and it is critical that we identify how education and business can work together more effectively.”

Councillor David Burbage, MBE, SESL Chairman and Leader, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, commented: “London and the South East are home to significantly more micro and small to medium-sized businesses than any other region – nearly 40 per cent of England’s most innovative small enterprises reside here in the engine room of the UK economy. This important and timely project will help these firms to invest in future success by giving them the tools they need to engage with schools, helping our young people to develop the skills, knowledge and experience they need to succeed as future employees.”

Councillor Peter John, London Councils’ Executive Member for Skills and Engagement, said: “London has high levels of youth unemployment, and yet a fifth of unfilled vacancies is due to a skills shortage. This means potentially thousands of young people are leaving school or college every year without the skills to succeed in the world of work. This joint research project is intended to help identify and build on existing good practice between employers, schools, colleges, and local authorities. It will serve as a useful first step towards shaping more effective skills provision, so that it meets the needs of employers and ensures future generations of Londoners are prepared for the labour market.”

The first phase of the research will comprise an overview of key literature and a consultation with approximately 10 key stakeholders to examine what approaches to employer-education engagement are currently being used and are valued. It will also involve focus groups to identify examples of promising practice and to contribute to the development of practical solutions to further develop engagement by SMEs, schools and colleges.

Follow the progress of this project via NFER’s Education to Employment web pages.