A national survey of over 3,500 education and business leaders has put employer engagement in the spotlight; shedding new light on a fundamental issue for the Swindon and Wiltshire economy.
Run by the British Chambers of Commerce, the survey has highlighted the significant benefits of partnerships between schools and businesses.
· The vast majority (88%) of education leaders said employer engagement led to improved outcomes for their pupils.
· Other benefits included increased motivation in lessons (73%), and better careers information (53%).
· However, both sides reported a number of barriers preventing them from building lasting and effective partnerships.
· Businesses cited staff time (53%) and cost as a factor (38%), while some educators identified a lack of interest from business (42%).
With youth unemployment still way above average unemployment and pre-recession levels, this research shows that more must be done to strengthen engagement between business and education.
Commenting on the survey results, Phil Smith, Managing Director of Business West, said: “Ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement last month, we highlighted that the skills gap is a national embarrassment and called for more government intervention to address this issue.
“There are already some great examples of effective school and business partnerships across the South West, but this survey shows that a greater push is needed from both sides if we are to overcome the barriers which both education and business face.
“It’s time for business and education to work together and make skills shortages a thing of the past.”
Ian Larrard, Director of the Swindon and Wiltshire Initiative, part of Business West, said: “Businesses can only perform as well as the people that work in them, and the skills gap between education and employers is acting as a drag on our long term growth.
“Great progress has been made here in Swindon and Wiltshire. Projects such as the University Technical Colleges and the Swindon Jobs Fest careers event staged in April this year, and to be repeated next February, prove that we are heading in the right direction, but this survey shows that there is still work to be done.
“I believe more schools than ever appreciate the importance of forging relationships with local companies. Staff time constraints are a very real factor with less time to cope with any activity outside the core subject teaching activities. Heads and senior teams must take up the mantle and undertake the liaison of school with businesses.
“Equally businesses have a very real part to play, acknowledging that they too have constraints on their time. However, it cannot be stressed enough how vital it is for both students and businesses to work closely together for their mutual advantage.”