How often do we hear local employers saying that they just don’t get the raw material they need from young people leaving education?
Quite a lot in my view.
And while I tend to support the employers here because they know exactly what skills they need, I feel we now need to break the mould in terms of how companies offer work experience.
Currently, work experience tends to be tortuous from both the school position and the local company standpoint.
I believe here in Gloucestershire we can be a game changer to benefit our young people and those local firms by developing a Work Experience Charter.
How would it work?
Heads would contact their local companies and get them in to get a real feel of the school, its employability focus and aspirations for their students.
I say heads of schools because I think it is so important that the process has time invested from the very top in the school.
Too often, I am afraid, it is left to junior teachers with no experience of dealing with businesses and their needs.
I would like to see clusters of schools getting together and taking the lead in the Charter process and pinpointing the key local companies, large and small.
The initiative must come from the schools themselves - perhaps under the auspices of GFirstLEP, the local enterprise partnership here of which I am a board member representing small business.
I have recently been involved with the Gloucester Academy - a school with some challenges - and introduced them to Clarkson Evans with whom I have worked on apprenticeship development for the last 15 years.
As a result, their chief operating officer, Lindsey Young, is now meeting the school.
Here is a Staverton company with a brilliant apprenticeship culture - training all its own electricians and now wiring something like one in ten new homes being built in the UK.
I think that the Gloucester Academy could well be developed into a sustainable employment pipeline for some of their students.
This is just the sort of partnership I envisage from the inception and development of a Work Experience Charter for Gloucestershire.
When I recently interviewed Nick Capstick OBE, the chief executive of the White Horse Federation, which runs 28 schools including the Gloucester Academy he was enthusiastic about the idea of a Work Experience Charter.
“We in education are tired of the world of work saying we don’t produce kids that they can use”, Nick told me.
“However, it is partly through our own ignorance because we do not know what employers want. If they are not helping us, we can’t shape it.
“If schools can work with local industry, they can discover what their natural skills could be. It is not about academic skills - it is about natural skills fit for purpose.
“A Work Experience Charter would actually require kids to work. One of the things we find when they come back from work experience is say - when they have been to a plumbers -and tell us they sorted out washers for two weeks.
“What I think we need here is a psychological contract of reciprocation”.
I could not agree more.
Work experience for our young people is such an important springboard to their future careers that we must start treating it in a far more businesslike way.