The head of Career College North East (CCNE), a pioneering joint academic and vocational learning programme for 14 to 19-years-olds, operated though South Tyneside College, is urging the government to rethink its policy around work experience for teenagers.
Ray Parkinson spoke out after a survey of 1,000 teenagers by the Careers College Trust, which overseas the national Career College initiative, found overwhelming support for work experience – removed from the national curriculum in 2012 – to be reintroduced.
Of those polled, the overwhelming majority – 83 per cent - think it should be compulsory on their school or college curriculum. Almost a quarter of those (23%) reported not having done any work experience at school. In a sign of its importance to them, over half (59%) surveyed said they had proactively organised their own placement.
Nationally, more than two thirds (67%) said they believe work experience is beneficial for finding employment, with more than half (56%) saying it allows for the learning of valuable skills that are not taught in the classroom.
CCNE was founded in 2015 as a partnership between South Tyneside College and Ofsted ‘outstanding’ St Wilfrid’s RC College, in South Shields. It delivers a two-year programme to 14-year-olds in engineering, advanced manufacturing, computer science and maritime studies.
Mr Parkinson said: “It is imperative that young people are given every opportunity to have their eyes opened to new skills and possibilities.
“Unfortunately, they are being severely restricted in this by the fact there are now such limitations on seeing beyond the classroom or into the world of work.
“The reality is that good quality work experience broadens horizons and exposes young people to the very environments into which they will soon be thrust.
“They can gain tremendous advantage if they have already been part of that environment and have seen how the workplace operates and have adapted to it.
“It is not just that they are taken out of the classroom and placed in a new and stimulating setting – being with an employer allows them to make a positive impression and contribution.
“Career College North East excels in delivering high-quality classroom study alongside the very type of work experience with key employers that so many other children are now missing out on.
“It is clear from this study that young people want and desire the opportunity to be in the workplace and that they can unmistakably see the benefits it can bring to them.
“My experience is that a strong link between the classroom and employment is incredibly important, and that is why I would urge the government to think again about this key area of education.”
Students within career colleges study for high quality academic and vocational qualifications, combining core curriculum subjects with a vocational specialism and hands-on projects with progression opportunities including apprenticeships and higher education.
The survey also found that nationally more than two thirds (67%) of those asked believe work experience is beneficial for finding employment, with more than half (56%) saying that it allows you to learn valuable skills that are not taught in the classroom.
Traditional education environments including secondary and grammar schools, were highlighted in the research as being the least likely to offer work experience, with students at Career Colleges and FE Colleges taking part in far more work experience-related activities.
The survey also revealed that degrees are no longer felt by teenagers to be the most important thing for getting a job. Professional training (55%), relevant work experience (41%), a strong CV (40%) and good careers advice in school (22%) are viewed as having more value than just a degree qualification (19%).
In fact, to achieve the future career of their dreams, a proactive 92 per cent of teenagers have or would consider taking a part-time job, 90% would undertake work experience, 67 per cent would transfer to a specialist college, while 72 per cent would start an apprenticeship.
Ruth Gilbert, CEO of the Career Colleges Trust, said: “It is clear from this research that today’s teenagers in both the North East and the rest of the country, are desperate for good work experience opportunities and are very much aware of the benefit this will have on their future career.
“Schools are increasingly narrowing their curriculums, with more emphasis on academic subjects to meet Progress 8 measure and perform well in the league tables. This is having a negative effect on students who not only would benefit from a more vocational pathway but on all students, who need experience of industry.
“Work experience is a key component of both the Government’s Careers Strategy and T-Levels – yet it is not featuring on the curriculum at many schools. Career Colleges are leading the way with sector specialist, employer-led pathways and schools should be supported to follow suit and create a much clearer line of sight from education to employment.
“Crucially, our research shows that young people themselves want the opportunity to develop employability skills and recognise the importance of doing this. Schools, employers and the Government simply must work together to support this.”
Career Colleges provide 14 to 19-year-olds with high quality, employer-led education, ensuring they are equipped with the skills needed to progress into work and/or further/higher education.
Delivering an exciting, career-focused alternative to school, employer involvement is integral to the Career College concept as a way of providing students with exposure to work and the workplace.
With the UK facing a skills gaps across several industries, Career Colleges aim to fill these gaps, for example in key sectors such as hospitality, healthcare, construction, digital/creative, and professional services.
Career Colleges are set up according to industry demand so that they address local skills gaps, ensuring the job opportunities are available for the young people.
More information about CCNE is available by calling South Tyneside College on 0191 427 3500 or visiting www.ccne.co.uk.