“Career colleges” will help create the skills we need

The emergence of the ‘career college’ is a significant development in responding to the practical needs of employers that should be welcomed with open arms by the British education system.

Described as “one of the biggest shake ups of Secondary Schools in more than 60 years” by The Times newspaper, it is a practical and feasible solution to the skills gap and high youth unemployment levels in England today.

The career college aims to equip students with the skills needed to progress in the working world whilst simultaneously allowing students to gain the required academic qualifications.

I am pleased to see Lord Baker placing such a strong emphasis on the need for practical learning and enterprise education – both key ambitions of the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy.

This is a big step towards supporting the implementation of the ‘Earn or Learn’ agenda introduced by David Cameron in his speech at the Conservative Party Conference last month. It aims to ensure the number of NEETs, (Young people not in Education, Employment or Training), is reduced and that the British youth are getting the head start in life they deserve.

However, to tackle the problem of youth unemployment in a significant way, we also need to offer young people an option to earn-while-you-learn through alternative routes such as apprenticeships. Our Level 5 Apprenticeship in Innovation and Growth offers students the chance to learn skills through a practical approach while gaining experience in a dynamic business environment.

Lord Baker’s focus on enterprise and the need for students to learn in a commercial environment has always been our ultimate ambition and we are pleased to see this being welcomed more broadly in the further education sector.

Central to the ethos at the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy is to give students hands-on business experience through a learning-by-doing curriculum. The enables young people to have real life experience of working in a business environment through enterprise-focused BTECs, Apprenticeships and work-placements.

The career college will target students from the age of 14 years, which recent research has found to be increasingly important. Interestingly, it has been shown that young people, particularly girls, form an idea on their potential future career at a very young age – sometimes as young as ten years old.

One way we have ensured students are given all of their options from a young age at the Peter Jones Foundation is through our Tycoon in Schools competition. This is a nationwide enterprise campaign that encourages and inspires young people across England to start a business whilst at school. It is incredible to see the amount of inspiring ideas and potential that comes out of this competition as well as the amount of students who are inspired to take their own entrepreneurial path.

It is vitally important to recognise that young people provide a wealth of un-tapped talent that British industry needs to harness and shape in order to get the outcomes needed for the 21st century workplace.

Employment is rapidly changing – and whether young people decide to make a job or take a job – it is recommendations like the career college that will give our young people the entrepreneurial mindset and skills needed to be leaders of tomorrow.

Alice Barnard is the chief executive of the Peter Jones Foundation.

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