Small businesses unimpressed with young talent pool 

Company owners feel that young people are not ready for the workplace upon leaving the education system, finds research.

Some 88 per cent believe school leavers are unprepared for the world of work, in comparison to 54 per cent of companies that think graduates are not ready for the workplace, according to a British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) survey.

More than half (57 per cent) say that young people are lacking basic ‘soft’ skills, such as communication and team working, to succeed in the working world, reveals the study of almost 3,000 companies.

More than three quarters of firms (76 per cent) believe a lack of work experience is the reason young people are unprepared for work.

However, more than half of respondents (52 per cent) say they don’t offer work experience placements themselves.

Reasons for this include cost and time (25 per cent), too much school admin (23 per cent) and a lack of information (22 per cent).

Almost half of businesses (46 per cent) say there is a lack of careers advice available for young people.

Due to fears around the work readiness of young people, more than a quarter of firms (27 per cent) say they have not recruited a young person (aged between 16 and 24) in the last year.

To better prepare young people for work, the BCC has recommended the introduction of experience of work in all secondary schools, through links with Accredited Chambers of Commerce, to help ensure a smooth transition from the education system to the world of work.

Also, the organisation advocates allowing all university students to choose business and enterprise modules as part of their degree programmes, to encourage and train potential entrepreneurs and business people from a more diverse range of academic backgrounds.

BCC director general John Longworth says that many businesses are worried that in today’s burgeoning economic recovery, hiring a young person is a risky move due to their lack of experience, and the investment of time and resource needed to train them.

‘Business people tend to favour more skilled and experienced applicants – and while they do sympathise, their primary function is to run a business, which means making business decisions.

‘Firms need young people that are resilient, good communicators and understand how to work as part of a team.’

Longworth adds that government and educational institutions must be more focused on equipping young people for the workplace, and in turn businesses must be more willing to give them a chance.

‘In practice, this means introducing business governance into schools, proper careers advice with direct links to business, and measuring the success of schools and universities based on the employment outcomes of pupils,’ he says. 

‘It is vital that we proactively build a pipeline of young talent who will go on to become the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs, as failure to do so could damage the UK’s future growth prospects and risk a lost generation of young people.’

Further reading on education and business

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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