THE KEY factor behind the success of any business – or indeed city – is its people. The capital is an international business hub, home to hundreds of different nationalities. But it must also demonstrate the local benefits for “ordinary” Londoners, especially young individuals looking to get their first foothold on the employment ladder.
That is why more than 600 students from nine Southwark schools will pour through the doors of the Guildhall on Thursday, to attend an employability and skills careers fair in association with 30 organisations from the public, private and third sectors. Many of these students can literally see the tower blocks occupied by big businesses from where they live, but may never consider the possibility of getting a job at one of these major institutions. Raising ambitions by bringing young people into the business world is of vital importance.
Today’s students face huge challenges and tough competition for jobs, yet many employers report difficulties in recruiting people with the right skills. In fact, according to the Confederation of British Industry, 51 per cent of businesses are not confident they will find sufficient recruits for high skilled roles. Something must be done about this disconnect; if we don’t provide young people with employable skills today, we won’t be able to fill the vacancies of tomorrow.
As well as this week’s fair, we are holding a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers fair in June, to address the fears of the quarter of businesses who struggle to hire staff with this expertise – a figure expected to rise to 43 per cent within three years as the economy picks up.
This kind of engagement really works. The Education & Employers Taskforce found that young adults who recalled four or more work-related learning activities while at school were five times less likely to be not in education, employment or training. They also earned, on average, 16 per cent more than peers who recalled no such activities. It gives students a rare chance to speak directly with a business which just might inspire their future career path. It may also help businesses to unearth talent that could benefit them in the future. For both sides, it is an important opportunity to demystify and break down barriers.
There has been huge improvement in the standard of education across London in recent years. But this is still not good enough, and we must do more to bring the poorest performing schools up to standard. The stunning improvements shown in a number of schools have demonstrated once and for all that no child is uneducable. The City Corporation recently reviewed its approach to education, and we are looking to play our part in supporting young talent across the capital.
I know, from speaking to students at our academies, that times are tough. We have a duty to ensure that all our young people have the skills to succeed in the career of their choice, whether that is banking, technology, engineering, medicine – or something we can’t imagine yet. Events like these provide the first step to giving London its skilled workers of tomorrow.
Mark Boleat is policy chairman at the City of London Corporation.