Skills Gap Amongst Young Britons

The OECD’s 2015 Skills Outlook report was published yesterday (27th May).  The OECD’s Skills Outlook reports on the acquisition of skills amongst young people in OECD countries and comments upon the transition of those young people into employment and their impact upon the national economy.  A summary and the full report can both be accessed here.

The report found that, across OECD countries, there are institutionalised barriers preventing young people from entering the workforce and there is often a gap between the skills acquired in school and the skills required to succeed in the workplace.  As a result, investment in education is often lost and that young people are potential burdens, rather than assets, to the national economy.

According to figures released in The Guardian (here), there are over 130,000 16-18 year old NEETs in Britain.  The OECD found that these young people in Britain face greater barriers to entering employment than their peers in other developed countries as they are the most likely to have a lack of employable skills.

Indeed, the skill gap between young NEETs in Britain and their employed peers (especially in terms of literacy and problem solving) is the worst out of the 22 countries surveyed by the OECD.  The gap between NEETs and their non-NEET peers in literacy was nearly double the skills gap found elsewhere in the OECD.  Unemployed British youth did almost 10% worse than their employed peers in problem solving tests, which placed Britain last out of 19 countries.

The Skills Outlook report also found that British graduates lag behind their peers in other OECD countries in terms of their skillset, especially with regard to numeracy and cognitive skills.

The OECD’s report identified a lack of workplace experience is a significant problem for school leavers; it is expensive for firms to hire people with no real work experiences, which encourages them to appoint older and more experienced individuals.

The Skills Outlook report also commented on ‘institutionalised barriers’ to employments, acknowledging that a quarter of all young employed people were working on temporary contracts which are often precarious and provide fewer training opportunities than a permanent contract does.

The OECD recommended that there is greater emphasis placed on skills development in schools, with early intervention programmes to target young people most at risk, there is greater work-based learning throughout education in order for young people to acquire essential employability skills, and there needs to be a better match between the skills taught in schools and the skills required for success in the workforce.

Helen Robinson