In today’s increasingly competitive world, so much hinges on what grades a pupil achieves. But these results are not the only route to a successful career. With increasing living costs and strains on time, more young people are looking to get into a skilled, practical role earlier to gain real world experience. They want to hit the ground running and start forging a career straightaway.
With GCSE results being released this week, many young people and parents across the country will be anxiously clutching their envelopes and thinking about what this will mean for their future career. While university remains the goal for those with the grades to get in, it’s not the only option for those school leavers looking to develop a future career. With the ever-changing business world there are now many new recognised options to support talent development and complement business needs.
At Grant Thornton, we’re proud to be hiring almost four times as many A-level school leavers as we were in 2011. This increased intake, from 19 places in 2011 to 70 places in 2017, has been driven by our commitment to becoming more inclusive and increasing diversity, along with a need to attract entry-level talent in a competitive market.
By removing academic barriers to entry, which we also did at degree level, we’ve been able to open up a new pool of talent and increase opportunities for a more diverse range of people. Apprenticeships have also become a vital part of the economy and the employment market, and more school leavers than ever before are opting to go down the practical training route.
It’s a well-versed view that we need to get our young people ‘business ready’ faster and equipped with the relevant skills, so that we can compete on the global stage. But, there is still more to be done. The Government’s Apprenticeship Levy, which came into operation in April this year, requires large firms with an annual pay bill of £3m or more to pay into a pot to fund more apprenticeship programmes. Initiatives such as this will help to address the kinds of skills shortages that we are so used to hearing business leaders lamenting and goes some way in supporting the development of our young people for the business world.
Despite these initiatives, businesses are still suffering from skills shortages, and thousands of young people (800,000 of them in the UK, according to the latest official NEET figures) are inactive. Surely, we need to do more to join the two?
Companies should be able to access the skills and talent they require for business delivery and future growth, and equally our young people need to be given the support and opportunities to develop and thrive.
The Grant Thornton Vibrant Economy Index, released earlier this year, showed that the West of England has one of the most highly skilled workforces in the UK, yet there is a gulf of opportunity which NEETS are missing out on. Bristol, for example, is faring worse than the national average (4.1%) for NEETS, at 5.7%.
The subject of skills was top of the agenda at our Bristol Live Lab event in March this year, when more than 200 business and community leaders convened to share ideas and insight into how the West of England can do more to provide access to skills and allow talented people of all ages to fulfil their potential.
The A* is no longer the only route to a successful career. The very best firms are the ones who have a motivated, highly skilled and trained workforce, and it’s these talented people, with their desire and determination to learn, that hold the key to boosting businesses in the region.