A new report by former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine marks out a much greater role for employers in educating young people and making them ready for the workplace.
The report, No stone unturned in pursuit of growth, commissioned by Chancellor George Osborne, has challenged the Government to take bolder action to stimulate economic growth. Among its 89 recommendations are several suggestions as to how employers can work more closely with training providers and schools at a local level to ensure that the skills young people develop are relevant and targeted.
Conservative peer Lord Heseltine believes that business engagement needs to be entrenched far deeper into the school curriculum than it is at present, increasing pupils' understanding of business and their own employability. He suggests that schools should be required to recruit at least two representatives from "influential" local employers on to their board of governors, and work more closely with local chambers of commerce on developing pupils' experiences of the world of work.
The report says: "Where [business involvement with schools] is sustained and systematic, it delivers tangible improvements in outcomes for schools. Evidence shows that young people who have experienced employer engagement activities, such as work experience, are five times less likely to end up outside education, training or employment." Lord Heseltine also indicated his support for the new destinations measures index, which tracks the employment destinations of school leavers.
With regard to government activity around apprenticeships, Lord Heseltine said that too much funding was focused on older staff (over the age of 25) who already worked for their company, rather than attracting younger people into a business to learn a skill. He also criticised a tendency for apprenticeship courses to be demand led, rather than targeted at areas of skills shortage, leading to a surplus of trained staff in certain areas.
The report calls for the skills development system to be more responsive to local employers' needs, and recommends that apprenticeship funding be devolved locally, rather than managed centrally (as it is by the Skills Funding Agency). Heseltine poin