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East Midlands Chamber News

Retiring President urges greater integration between business and education

Retiring President Ian GreenawayIn his last week as President of the second-largest Chamber of Commerce in the UK, Ian Greenaway is stepping up his campaign to improve integration between business and education.

He has written an open letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove and Business, Innovation and Skills Secretary Vince Cable, copied to Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Opposition Leader Ed Miliband and other opinion-formers urging them to allow local business leaders to get more closely involved with school, colleges and universities.

He is also calling for business to be represented during Ofsted inspections.

In the letter, Ian wrote: “Over the past two years, as President of DNCC, a Young Enterprise Business Adviser and a local businessman interested in helping young people to gain the skills that businesses want, I have had the opportunity to visit and get involved with many schools and colleges.

“I have seen some really good practice and believe the Further Education sector has moved forward significantly in preparing young people and helping them into employment. However, although there are some schools and academies which work hard with local businesses to ensure young people have the skills required by business there are still a significant number which are failing to ensure their students are given the academic and employability skills to help them in the transition to employment.”

He went on to say that surveys by business-representative organisations “continue to show their members are still deeply concerned about the ‘soft skills’ of young people attending job interviews”.

“The vast majority of businesses, large and small, tell me the attitude and aptitude of candidates is more important to them than academic qualifications,” he wrote, adding that the comments related through all levels of employment, from unskilled to professional roles.

“Our perception remains that there is a lack of joined-up thinking between the Government Departments for Education and Business Innovation and Skills,” he wrote.

Ian said he welcomed recent announcements that technical colleges are to make a comeback

On Ofsted, Ian wrote: “It is a sad fact that I still hear some school leaders saying the emphasis of Ofsted inspections is on students obtaining five A* to C grades in GCSE exams… which inhibits their ability to ensure students leave school with the necessary employability skills.”

He said “constructive conversations” with Ofsted at a senior level had led him to believe there is “much sympathy for a more holistic set of measures”.

The Chamber works closely with Business In The Community and Young Enterprise – both of which are backing Ian’s campaign for improved integration – to develop employability and entrepreneurial skills in schools.

Ian has listed four key areas where he believes improvements can be made which include the criteria on which schools are judged, inclusion of business people on Ofsted inspection teams, embed employability skills across the national curriculum and encourage teachers to spend time out of the classroom and in industry.

“Failure to address the issue of giving our young people the skills and attributes wanted by those who have the job opportunities to offer will mean we continue to have high youth unemployment, frustration among young people and employers and skills shortages in key sectors, none of which can be good for UK plc,” he wrote.

Liz Needleman, Area Director England East at Business in the Community said: “We fully support Ian’s call for more joined-up thinking in this area. Improving the employability of young people is a priority for schools and employers alike, and the structured, sustained involvement of businesses with schools, through programmes such as Business Class, is a vital component in making this happen.”