Student employability

It’s that time of year again.  Expect a foggy start, but the mists will clear….once you’re Work Savvy

The thrust of Sir Anthony Seldon’s article in yesterday’s Times was aimed at students’ lack of preparation for University, with the finger of blame pointed at the schools,… “whose curriculum focus on academic ambition has been at the expense of education breadth. With more than half of all school leavers heading for University this autumn the result is that many will be unsure why they are actually going, what to expect and how to manage once they’re there.  The statistics relating to mental health problems and drop-out rates should come as no surprise”.   

But let’s look at the positives, for wherever a student is heading after leaving school there will be gaps that are easily filled, and this can take a matter of hours if you apply yourself in the right way.  The following is a re-post from this time last year but no less relevant for that: 

From Oct 4th 2018

If only there was such a thing as an A* in being Work Savvy. 

The press and social media are warming to their task in alerting the world to the fact that our students are failing to learn a whole host of things that would genuinely be useful in later life. The gap between academia and the world of work has grown to the point where we must have somebody to whom we can point the finger of blame.

Blame is commonly placed on a traditional teaching curriculum whose focus is on passing exams, and not on passing-out with qualifications equipped for survival in the real world. The point is also made that it’s not a school’s job to teach students all those things that should be taught at home. So blame is also directed towards parents who in theory should have the time and the inclination to impart wisdom and common sense at any available opportunity, to do with any subject that is deemed relevant.

There’s no reason to blame either. It’s perfectly reasonable for most schools to believe that their main brief is to allocate precious resources to pass exams, for they are on a hiding to nothing if they pay no heed to a monitored performance benchmark.  If there’s any time or money left to promote extra-curricular matters they almost certainly do what they can.   As for the parents, even the most dedicated might realise that all too often children are more inclined to listen to/absorb information from anybody else but their own. The maxim that “You teach my child to drive and I’ll teach yours” might chime with both parents and would-be drivers alike. 

Let’s put the blame somewhere though. There has always been a gap between what is taught and what’s needed, but this gap has widened in recent years.   Sociological, environmental and technological influences are all forces that have altered the dynamics by which employers hire their staff, and perhaps it’s not fair that they hold all the cards since they can have their workforce ‘on trial’ as interns/trainees while they make up their minds whether to take them on full-time.  They can take their pick from screened applicants, and those who still fall short of exacting standards to do with hard/soft skills will find themselves back in the mix. 

However, there’s little point in blaming the employers because nobody is press-ganged into working for them and they (more importantly) make no secret of what they’re looking to find in applicants.  The methods used to do so might make the whole process of job application a thoroughly dispiriting experience but that’s a topic for another day. So, if we don’t yet have the right answers we should set about altering the questions. 

Keep the exams, but make them different. There’s no need to alter the benchmark by which schools are judged.  Schools should continue to have a focus on the passing of exams but these exams could perhaps be on more-relevant topics and be asking different questions.  What’s relevant? Quite apart from learning how to survive in the world of work (workplace protocol) the basic principles of peripheral subjects such as personal finance, politics, law and a whole host of miscellaneous subjects could become mainstream.  

Such a thing as a ‘Work Savvy’ qualification would get you off to a fine start in life beyond school. After all, the real world is still ‘school’ but with (perhaps) better food, fewer rules and shorter holidays. The chances are you’ll still be wearing some kind of ‘uniform’, and there’s still a ‘curriculum’ but it’s now referred to something called a learning-curve. But at least you might get paid while you’re gaining all that experience. 

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