It’s not just about the exam results for employers - Beckie Hart

Just a few weeks back, young people across Yorkshire and the Humber received their A-level and GCSE results at the culmination of a year like no other.

Beckie Hart, Regional Director at the CBI

There were record rises in the highest grades, with teachers having to make assessments of each pupil given that this year, once again exams were just not possible. Whatever the rights or wrongs – and there can be no perfect method of assessment in a global pandemic – we must firstly congratulate students for their years of hard work.

Regardless of the outcome for each pupil – not everyone will have got the results they hoped for – they should remember qualifications are just one of the factors employers look at when recruiting. Businesses value the resilience students have demonstrated throughout the pandemic, alongside skills like creativity, communication, leadership and teamwork.

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These so-called soft skills are fundamental to helping young people become adaptable and employable throughout their working lives. In an increasingly automated world, human skills such as these can be a source of competitive advantage.

In the days since receiving their results, many young people will have been asking themselves ‘what next?’. While many will go onto university, further education or vocational training, others will head straight into the workplace.

Whatever route they choose, I know that our region’s businesses are committed to helping young people get ready for the world of work – be it through Kickstart placements, apprenticeships, T-levels or first jobs.

These young people will play a key role in addressing skills gaps for businesses in the years ahead. That is one of the reasons it has been fantastic to see an increased uptake of maths, computing and sciences courses – and the impressive results which have followed.

As digitisation and automation continue to revolutionise the way we work, equipping young people with these skills will not only help them to succeed, but also ensure our businesses can reap the benefits of new technologies. And while our young people will be vital to the region becoming a skills powerhouse in the future, there is just as big a role in upskilling and retraining our existing workforce.

Of course, Covid-19 and the short-term pressures stemming from Brexit have placed a brake on economic growth, but scratch under the surface and one of the perennial restraints remains skills.

Employers are struggling today to access both skills and labour, meaning short-term solutions are important as well as a long-term vision. The short-term initiatives rolled out as part of the Covid-19 recovery scheme were a real boon.

And finally, when it comes to skills, I must always come to the dysfunctional Apprenticeship Levy, 
which is stunting development across the country. Reform is long overdue.

Whatever the future brings for our young people, businesses will stand with them to give them the best opportunity to get on in life.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson