Linking education & employment
For many, the issue of skills shortages across the UK is partly the fault of an education system which tends to focus on exam results and fails to give young people an opportunity to see what the world of work is like. Indeed, McKinsey’s Education to Employment report found that ‘educators and employers operate in parallel universes’ and Holliday agrees. “We need to start linking these things up,” he declares.
Holliday has, by his own admission, been very critical of the lack of careers advice in schools in recent years. Yet he acknowledges that in a world where today’s CEOs struggle to articulate what jobs will be available in their own organisations in five years’ time, it’s unreasonable to expect teachers or careers advisers in schools to keep up with what industry needs.
For Holliday, there’s a real onus on business and industry to be honest with young people about where the economy needs skills in the future, so they can make informed choices now.
Putting the onus on business – Careers Lab
To that end, National Grid is launching ‘Careers Lab’ which Holliday hopes will begin the journey towards providing a co-ordinated way of businesses taking responsibility for the agenda. The pilot scheme, which begins in January 2014, will see businesses and schools working together on a progression of careers advice programmes for young people from the age of 11 to 16.
“We want to inspire kids, in the hope that they will aspire to different careers,” says Holliday. “We’re hoping this will act as a facilitation layer for schools to tap into businesses so they can have conversations about work, business and the skills required for the future.”
With input from teachers, four modules have been designed to be delivered to different age groups to bring the reality of the jobs market alive and inspire young people into industry. Holliday has also enlisted a number of other big employers such as Whitbread, Capgemini and Costain.
The plan is to trial the scheme across six schools in the Midlands region in 2014, before rolling it out across the rest of the country.
When it comes to government involvement, Holliday is sceptical about imposing new legislation, but suggests more could be done to encourage schools to focus less on how many people go to university and more on how many people go into work through vocational paths such as traineeships and apprenticeships.
“There’s an old adage in business – if something isn’t going well and you put metrics around it, things will start to happen,” he says.
“In the education sector, if the key measurements are around: ‘how many people are going to university?’ guess what output you’re likely to focus on.”
With the onus now on universities to provide statistics on the activities of graduates after they leave higher education, Holliday argues that if schools were obliged to do the same, there would be more visibility over the future talent pipeline. He says: “The question for schools is: ‘how many people have we set up for life with some degree of success?’, as opposed to: ‘I got this lot off to uni, so the other lot is on the scrapheap’.”