Top employers have backed changes to the national curriculum which will see school pupils learn how to apply maths and English in the workplace.
From September, secondary schools will be forced to teach teamworking, communication and time management skills as part of all courses, in a bid to help teenagers become more job-ready.
The programme, dubbed ‘functional skills’, comes in response to criticism that many teenagers leave school without the right attitude and knowledge to survive in the world of work.
Under the scheme, schoolchildren will be taught how to make sense of daily life, from working out which deal is best value, to writing an application letter or getting the best out of a computer software package.
Hayley Tatum, UK operations and personnel director at supermarket giant Tesco, who also sits on the CBI’s education and skills committee, told Personnel Today employers would welcome the changes.
“The [functional skills] scheme gives skills in teamworking, and increases confidence in communication and time management skills. I’m hopeful we’ll get more work-ready candidates and we can then start to advance their careers earlier.”
She added: “In the past employers have been doing a lot of these things themselves – very often starting from scratch.”
Angela Coleshill, HR director at the Food and Drink Federation, said the food sector employed an “ageing population of employees” which would leave behind them a significant skills gap when they came to retire.
“We’re not recruiting as many young people as we would like, and when we do have access they’re not as motivated as we would like,” she said.
“Functional skills are good because it’s practical and not theoretical. There aren’t the opportunities for work in the summer holidays these days so where do they get that exposure? We have to have a practical application in an educational environment.”
However, professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, was sceptical the new education scheme would address the “failings” of the school system.
“Functional skills seem to be an admission of failure,” he said. “As far as English, maths and information and communication technology are concerned, it’s a reflection of what we’re failing to do. Simply having a module you drop in is a second class offering.”
He stressed the need for better connections from school to work via GCSEs and A-levels, “designed by employers and with employers on board to fund the education and training”.
A Department for Children, Schools and Families statement said: “Functional skills will help develop important skills, like communication, teamworking, presentation, and problem solving. They are a key to success. They open doors to learning, to life and to work.”