URGENT action is needed to bridge the gulf between education and local businesses, it is claimed.
Schools and universities are largely acting in isolation away from the business world which is resulting in young people being ill-prepared for a life of work.
That’s the view of Bill Macbeth, managing director of Huddersfield Textile Centre of Excellence, which has 80 member companies around Yorkshire.
He said: “Without a shadow of a doubt there is a big gap between education and business. The big problem as I see it is that education right throughout the country is largely closed to business.
“It is very off-putting for businesses to go anywhere near schools. There is so much concern about saying or doing something wrong that a lot of business people are nervous about approaching schools – and they are not being invited in.
“Teachers feel they are too busy to learn more about local industry. The vast majority of schools know little or nothing of the apprenticeship system.
He added: “We are facing a crisis in the textile industry where the average age of the workers is far too high. We need highly skilled, technical people coming into the industry.”
Mr Macbeth’s comments were made following the publication of a survey involving 1,000 firms by recruitment company Adecco.
The survey found that:
Over half of the firms believed that university graduates had unrealistic expectations of working life.
One in three said that the education system was failing to prepare young people with the skills needed for work.
Newcomers to the world of work were lacking in interpersonal and computer skills with one in four employers reporting a lack of basic literacy and numeracy skills among graduates.
The survey organisers called on educationalists, the government and bosses to tackle the “substantial shortcomings” in workplace skills.
Mr Macbeth called for much closer links between local schools, the university and local businesses.
He added: “I travel a lot in Europe and people look at the UK and think we have a wonderful university system, but so much of further and higher education is out of touch with the world of business.
“Youth unemployment is a waste of time, talent and investment, but it will only get better with a heck of a lot more contact between education and business.
“We have to prepare our children to maximise the local employment opportunities.”
He said that university funding and taxpayers’ money should be more closely linked to the quality of education provided and the number of graduates gaining employment. Time and resources should be allocated to schools to develop links with local industry.
Mr Macbeth spent three years developing the blueprint for the Creative and Media Studio School at Rawthorpe which has businesses on site and encourages students to set up their own enterprises. He said that this was a great way forward.
Paul Johnson, managing director of Moldgreen textile finishers W T Johnson, said: “I agree wholeheartedly about young people having unrealistic expectations in terms of financial rewards and a general expectation of what a life in work involves.
“We have had a policy of recruiting people straight from school for a long time and we have got quite good relationships with local schools. But as the years have gone by, there is an increasing difficulty of people being fit for work in a manufacturing environment.”