Scotland politics

Business chiefs say young people need better skills

More needs to be done to make sure young people enter the world of work with the necessary skills, MSPs have been told.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) made the plea to Holyrood's education and culture committee.

Its senior policy adviser, Mary Goodman, said many young people appeared to lack interpersonal skills.

There are currently about 103,000 16 to 24-year-olds out of work, the committee has been informed.

Ms Goodman said that the national Employer Skills Survey had consistently returned results that corroborate anecdotal evidence about a lack of so-called "soft skills" - for example communication and interpersonal skills, team building and problem solving - among those young people starting work.

She told the committee: "I think one of the reasons why we have this stand-off here is because of the yawning gulf between education and employment at the moment.

"Each is peering round a closed door at the other and pointing fingers, and I think there is probably an element of truth on both sides, let's face it. I definitely think there needs to be more interaction.

"Policy-makers are constantly suggesting ways of addressing issues in education and employment that just disregard what the reality is out there."

Ms Goodman said more employer involvement in schools would be useful, while the Curriculum for Excellence, currently being rolled out across Scotland, would also help to embed soft skills in young people.

MSPs are working to create a strategy which will see the young unemployed being better placed to secure a job.

The education and culture committee has also been informed by the Alliance of Sector Skills Councils that improving the literacy and numeracy standards of school leavers must be part of a youth employment strategy.

In a written submission, it pointed out a survey last May which found that 42% of employers were unhappy with the basic use of English by school and college leavers, with 35% concerned about basic numeracy skills among this group.

The alliance added: "There is clearly an urgent need, as part of the current youth employment strategy, to raise standards of literacy and numeracy more generally amongst today's school and college leavers."

On a positive note, MSPs heard from the STUC's Stephen Boyd who said research had shown that employers who do take on young people have an "extremely positive" experience.

He said: "I think it is probably fair to say the STUC is extremely sceptical of some of these stories we hear about the poor quality of soft skills.

"I think the extent of this problem is exaggerated. I have been in this post now for eight years at the STUC and I have heard this has been a constant over that eight years, that soft skills amongst our young people are not up to scratch. Yet the evidence remains anecdotal."

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