We may be slowly recovering from the economic crisis but there could be another one looming as many businesses are finding it hard to recruit youngsters with the right sort of education and skills they need.

Recent findings from the Prince’s Trust, (see the BBC’s report), suggests that this gap in skilled young people could seriously hamper the UK’s economic growth.

The problem was outlined by Martina Milburn of the Trust; “It is deeply concerning that employers are struggling to fill vacancies when we have hundreds of thousands of unemployed young people desperate for work. The current economic recovery is encouraging, but in order to sustain this growth, the UK needs to invest in the next generation to avoid a skills vacuum.”

Perhaps it’s time to change our educational system from being so academic based to one that gives youngsters opportunities to learn these skills, rather than trying to make them all into graduates as if that was the only worthy goal.

As it’s not only graduates that are needed to fill this gap but people with skills outside the academic like construction or electrical skills. Yet youngsters have little practical opportunity in education to prepare for jobs like electricians, builders, plumbers, carpenters or fitters, or make those choices.

The trouble is that a child’s future is based in early inaccurate academic measurement, originating from a dated academic hierarchy and a system which supports it.

But is that all education should be?

A good academic basis is useful. But in the end, an A* in English is not going to make you good at fitting a tap or plastering a wall, skills which could equally create a productive life.

Concentrating on academic skills only fits you for an academic career and despite some opportunity to do practical skills it’s still grades schools are after. Grades make the school look good, and schools are big business like any other.

Take driving – no amount of studying will make me driver. We have to drive for our skills to grow. But many skills, like driving, that so many young people would be able to make a living from are neglected in favour of exam skills and academic achievements.

Many people are better at practical skills than at academic ones. So we need an educational approach that gives them the chance to flourish too. Instead we disengage youngsters with dull classroom study and endless exams and make out they’re underachievers. Then we have youngsters leaving education without skills for work.

Is our education system, and the advice we give our children about exams and their lives, still based in an age-old attitude of academia being more worthy than manual trades?

Organisations like The Prince’s Trust and The Edge Foundation are going some way to change that.

But until attitudes change we will continue to see a shortage of skills and an increase in the amount of unemployed young people who could put them to use.

Skilled work is as valuable to us as academic professions. So rather than educational politics once again shaking up the exam system (as outlined here) we maybe need to rethink the opportunities we offer youngsters, giving those who prefer not to do academic exams an opportunity to learn the skills needed for the jobs out there.




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