Author: Jane Scott Paul OBE – Chief Executive of AAT
It is clear from the press that the outlook remains bleak for our young people.
There are around one million 16 to 24 year-olds not in education, training or employment and the labour market is becoming crowded with an excess of university graduates that aren’t being offered work for which they are qualified.
This year 47 per cent of new graduates took on non-graduate jobs (up from 37 per cent in 2001). It’s a harsh reality that confirms that under-employment is still prevalent and graduates now are well aware of the hard times they face trying to break into decent professional jobs.
The ONS reports that our careers advice services are in “severe crisis” with the latest figures showing the vast majority of students are failing to get the help they need. An overwhelming 93 per cent of youngsters said they did not get all the information required to make informed choices on their future career.
Schools are still pushing traditional routes with two-thirds saying they were pointed towards academic paths, such as A Level (62 per cent) and university (65 per cent). Only a quarter of the 14-25 year-olds (26 per cent) had information on starting an apprenticeship and even fewer (17 per cent) on what vocational qualifications might be available.
These statistics demonstrate that we need to make young people aware of other choices.
The traditional formula for a career (school + university degrees = a professional job in a chosen sector) does not necessarily deliver. The economy has changed and so has the labour market and what it demands. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the pathways leading to a stable job are expanding and, in some cases, prove more effective.
David Cameron revealed in his five-point plan for economic growth that a ‘radical reform in education’ is needed in order to help reboot the economy and lift the country out of recession. Amongst this is the ambition to create a “new norm” whereby school leavers either enter university and further education, or apprenticeships and skills training. There will be more pathways and more choice for our youth led by employer demand to correlate to the changing needs of the business world.
This shift in the education landscape has led to a shift in attitudes amongst young people who are rightly questioning how to go about getting a job.
What is changing?
Each year, AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) conducts an annual survey of its membership to look into the views, attitudes and satisfaction levels of members at all key stages of the membership journey on a variety of topics. We also ask them about their intended career paths so we can better understand how they intend to use the AAT qualification.
This year, we realised an interesting trend.
Of around 1,500 students, almost a quarter (22 per cent) said they were interested in starting up a business [Click to tweet] in the next five years compared to 13 per cent in 2011. Similarly, more students are taking up apprenticeships (25 per cent are currently studying as part of a formal apprenticeship scheme) – up nearly 10 per cent from this time last year.
The results are indicative of an unreliable job market and the changes that are happening within the education system. The introduction of £9,000 tuition fees and uncertain graduate outcomes have prompted many to question the best route into a career and consider alternatives such as on-the-job training and self-employment.
The economic downturn has created a more ‘entrepreneurial generation’, eager to take control and, in some cases, work for themselves. [Click to tweet]
The Skills Minister Matthew Hancock recently launched a challenge to teenagers to think more about starting their own business and I agree that this is something we as a society need to encourage.
It’s been said that small businesses will be the vehicle that will lift the country out of recession, and if we want this to be true, then we need to be supporting young people and giving them the tools for success.
On the surface, ‘being your own boss’ is an attractive notion – you can dictate your own hours, holidays and work arrangements, for example. But with this comes an endless amount of decisions surrounding how one will establish and grow a business, i.e. financial management, marketing, business planning, administration, etc.
If this is the direction in which our young people want to head, then we need to take a step back and consider the skills we are offering them at school. Do subjects need to change to reflect the direction in which the economy is heading with more start-ups predicted? Should we be prioritising subjects that cover basic finance and business management – such as budgeting and book-keeping?
- Understanding the purpose and use of control accounts and journals
- Maintaining and using control accounts and the journal
- Reconciling a bank statement with the cash book
- Understanding the banking process and main services of banks and building societies
- Understanding requirements of retention and storage relating to banking documents.
Are we adapting sufficiently quickly to the fact that young people will no longer be following the same route into a career that they did thirty years ago?
It is encouraging that we’re creating an ‘entrepreneurial’ generation with an appetite for success but we need to increase the chances of success so that they can flourish and contribute to our economy.