Press release

New 'connect card' will help schools, colleges, and SMEs to produce work-ready young people

16 March 2015

Many schools, colleges and employers want to develop stronger links to prepare young people for work, but are struggling to make this happen. However, a new report from NFER, London Councils, the London Enterprise Panel and South East Strategic Leaders, gives practical advice on how education organisations and local business can work together to make young people ‘work ready’. Based on research with SMEs, micro- businesses, further education colleges and secondary schools in London and the South East, the report includes case studies and a ‘connect card’ with advice on how to develop effective partnerships.

Forming partnerships between SMEs and education is not easy, the research finds. Whilst many larger companies have well-developed education links programmes, SMEs (which account for 99.6% of all businesses in the South East) are less likely to have strong links with education.

A key assertion is that relationships between education and business need to be driven by schools and colleges.

To help develop these relationships, the research partners have produced a ’connect card’ containing a checklist of five key questions designed to stimulate discussion, plus advice on understanding business needs and developing long-term relationships.

"The more informed and involved employers are, the more they will realise that schools and colleges cannot produce a ‘work-ready’ young person alone and that their input is crucial to the better preparation of young people to the workplace", the report says.

It identifies the key things that improve education-business relationships. They are:

The research also includes case studies showing how businesses (SMEs and micro firms) are already engaging effectively with secondary schools and colleges. (See notes to editor).

Senior NFER Research Manager Tami McCrone says:
“Concerns amongst employers about the lack of ‘work readiness’ amongst young people leaving education have been raised. The contribution made by small and medium-sized enterprises to improving the employability skills of young people is invaluable. Schools, colleges and businesses are keen to work together, but the challenge is not knowing how to go about developing partnerships that work. The research not only shows the value of developing direct relationships between schools, colleges and SMEs, but also how to do it.”

Cllr David Burbage MBE, SESL Chairman and Leader, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead commented:
“Our education and skills system must become increasingly effective in responding to the priorities of the South East economy. Greater skills devolution is vital to securing this, as is the involvement of businesses in education. Our case study report shows how local authorities and LEPs are already brokering meaningful links between employers and educators. Beyond large corporates, we need to tap into the vast pool of innovative micro and small and medium sized enterprises - the backbone of the South East economy”. He continued: “Employers of all shapes and sizes want work-ready young people and are willing to be part of the solution – our Connect Card, developed in partnership with schools, colleges and businesses, will help make this a reality”.

Councillor Peter John, 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. The findings of this joint research project confirm that in order to make a difference to those statistics, employers, schools, colleges, and local authorities each have a role to play. Schools must ensure businesses are involved in preparing young people for the workplace at the earliest opportunity; employers of all sizes must take a more proactive role in helping to shape London’s future workforce; and local authorities play a vital role in facilitating these relationships. I would urge all partners to consider the recommendations in this report to help save a future generation of Londoners from worklessness.”

Cathy Walsh, Member of the London Enterprise Panel said:
“Improving employability skills, enriching our economy comes at a key stage in the debate on how the London Careers Offer can be enhanced to help young people make more informed career choices. The Panel’s Skills and Employment Working Group, is particularly interested in what a London Careers Offer would look like and welcomes the report’s findings particularly the importance of the development of employability and enterprise skills within education, through direct involvement of employers. It is a win win for everyone. It better prepares young people for work and it benefits businesses by shaping the employability skills of their future workforce.”

The research report is timely as concerns about young people’s employability skills have been raised by the British Chambers of Commerce. In a recent survey (published on 1 March) it revealed that more than half of UK employers believe a lack of soft skills is hindering young people’s readiness for work and that there is a lack of focus on employability and enterprise in school.

The report and connect card are available here.


For more information contact:

Jane Parrack, Marketing and Communications Manager. Email: Phone: 01753 637245.
Anne Nicholls, PR consultant. Email: Phone: 07973 491439.
Philippa Mellish, South East Strategic Leaders. Email: Phone: 01962 847482

Interviews can be arranged with spokespeople and case studies involved in the project. (See notes to editor).

Notes to editors:

Research methodology

The research took place between November 2014 and March 2015. It involved:

Case studies (*These are available for interview)