University system is not providing enough highly skilled workers says CBI

THE TRADITIONAL university route taken by most teenagers is not enough to provide all the degree-level skills required by major industries, business leaders have warned.

The UK’s young people must be encouraged to take more apprenticeships, ‘sandwich’ degree courses that include a year in industry, and shorter and part-time degrees to tackle the chronic shortage of suitably qualified workers, according to a new report by the CBI.

It says businesses need to deal with the perception that A-levels, followed by a three-year undergraduate course is the only route to a good career, and it calls for a university admissions-style system be set up to help people apply for vocational courses.

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The report comes just weeks before teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland learn their A-level results, and if they have won a university place.

Between now and 2020, most jobs created will be high-skilled jobs, the report says, with nearly half of all jobs in managerial, professional or associate professional roles.

The CBI says the UK cannot rely on traditional degree courses to meet all the needs of key industries such as manufacturing, construction, IT and engineering. “What is now seen as the ‘default route’ of an undergraduate degree is not suitable for all – young people have different talents and learn in different ways.”

CBI policy director Katja Hall said: “The UK needs to vastly increase the stock of workers with higher-level skills to drive long-term growth and stop us falling behind our competitors.

“We need to tackle the perception that the A-levels and three-year degree model is the only route to a good career.

“When faced with £27,000 debt, young people are already becoming much savvier in shopping around for routes to give them the competitive edge in a tighter job market.

“Universities must be much more innovative to take advantage of the change in students’ approach. And we need businesses to roll up their sleeves and expand high-quality alternative routes where degrees are not the best option for young people.”