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CBI warns school leavers fail to make business grade

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One-in-three companies are forced to give remedial training to young recruits to compensate for failures in the education system, according to the CBI.

Ahead of Thursday’s GCSE results, excerpts from a new CBI survey of over 500 firms reveals that 37% of firms are not satisfied with the basic literacy and numeracy of school leavers.

The survey also found that 33% of firms needed to give school leavers basic training in literacy and numeracy over the past twelve months.

The annual CBI-Pertemps employment trends survey – due for full release next month – is set to show that the vast majority of employers – 83% – believe government should focus on ensuring all young people leave school literate and numerate.

The latest figures suggest that employers spend over £23bn each year on training and CBI research shows this amount is rising year on year.

But the employers’ organisation is concerned that a significant proportion of this is being spent ironing out basic problems that should have been resolved by state education.

Digby Jones, CBI Director-General, said that too many school leavers were “failing to make the business grade”.

“A fundamental working knowledge of English and Maths provides a vital foundation for every day-to-day business task. But the education system is letting down many young people and leaving them unprepared for the world of work,” he said.

“Employers are left to pick up the pieces and the bill, with many resorting to basic training to compensate for the short-comings of an education system that they have already paid for through increased business taxation.”

The employers’ organisation says firms are looking for motivated and independent school leavers that are alive to the needs of the modern workplace. But the CBI survey will also show that 41% of firms are not satisfied with school leavers’ business awareness and 46% are not satisfied with their self-management skills.

The survey will also show that 59% of companies run work experience placements for 14-16 year-olds, illustrating that a high proportion of businesses are constructively involved in preparing young people for full employment.

Digby Jones said: “The hard work of many young people and teachers will be rewarded on Thursday when this year’s GCSE results are published. But I hope that the overall trend shows an improvement on last year when 48% of pupils failed to achieve grade C or above in Maths and 56% failed to get grade C or above in English.”

Earlier this month the CBI published its response to the interim report of the Tomlinson Working Group on 14-19 education reform. It urged the government not to let radical reform divert attention from the absolute priority of improving basic skills and said business was “not yet convinced” by the group’s proposals.

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