Government urged to make under 16 work experience a ‘national priority’

A study from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), which surveyed 3,500 business leaders and school officials, found that 79 per cent of employers believe work experience is the best way to equip young people with skills for the workplace.

73 per cent of education leaders and 82 per cent of businesses responded by saying that schools should offer work experience to pupils under the age of 16. Compulsory work experience was ended by the government in 2012.

John Longworth, director general of the BCC, said: "Business and school leaders are clear – we won't bridge the gap between the world of education and the world of work unless young people spend time in workplaces while still at school.

"It was careless of government to end compulsory work experience in 2012, but it is not too late to correct the mistake and work with companies and schools to ensure that every school pupil has the chance to feel the energy, dynamism, buzz and challenge of the workplace for themselves."

He added: "Work experience is crucial to bringing down our stubbornly high youth unemployment rate. It will help ensure more young people are prepared for work. It will help close the yawning skills gaps reported by frustrated businesses across the UK, who face huge difficulty filling vacancies at every level."

Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell said: “This survey is yet more evidence that David Cameron’s education policy is seriously limiting opportunities for the next generation.

“The government must now urgently break down the barriers between schools and businesses to support young people to develop the skills and experiences they need for the workplace and tackle the skills gap that is holding Britain back.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This Government is determined to support young people to make informed choices about their careers and make it easier for employers to work with schools more effectively.

“We trust head teachers to decide what is best for their pupils – including when and how to take part in work experience or work-related learning – and are providing valuable support for them through the Careers and Enterprise Company, which is working with secondary schools and colleges to support the development of relationships with local employers.”

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