Bridging the chasm between education and business

Posted by | May 31, 2013 | Growth, People, Small Business | No Comments

Guest post: Martin Reed, CEO, Thomas International

I’m sure every employer has had the experience of choosing a job candidate with impressive academic credentials, only to discover further down the line that those qualifications don’t translate into suitability for the job or professionalism in a business environment.

The relationship between educational establishments and the businesses they feed has been damaged over recent decades with successive governments’ changes to the education system leaving many companies in a position where they no longer feel they can rely on a candidate’s educational qualifications as reliable shorthand for  their capabilities.

Employers have long been of the opinion that exam results bear no relation to the real skills and talents of young applicants yet, conversely, students have been led to believe that good exam results are going to guarantee them a good job. At Thomas International, we hear from many of our clients that they are surprised by how many students applying for jobs have excellent exam results but no idea where their true skills lie and false expectations of the working environment.

As businesses lose trust in the education system’s ability to provide them with the calibre of graduates needed to survive in today’s fast-moving commercial landscape, schools and colleges need to do more to equip students for the working world and imbue students with the idea that the outcome of leaving school isn’t just to get a qualification, but to ultimately find employment. To achieve this level of reciprocal understanding there needs to be closer links between businesses and students so that both parties know what to expect from each other.

As a business owner myself, I understand that employers want the reassurance of knowing that students who come through the education system are clued up on what employers need and have the skills to be able to perform in a professional environment. Learning for its own sake is clearly noble, but employers need the reassurance that schools are giving young people the tools to encourage self-awareness, helping them understand where their natural strengths lie and identifying the types of work they are best suited for. Without these elements, both school leavers and recruiters will waste valuable time and resources narrowing the field, especially in an era where exam results can no longer be taken as reliable indicators. I believe that more needs to be done to encourage schools, and by extension students, to be more business-minded in their approach. This would not only supplement the usefulness of an improved examination system but would also reassure employers that school leavers are capable of hitting the ground running.

At present, many schools lack the commercial experience themselves to give students an understanding of the business world and impart the fact that the skills required by employers are very different from the skills required by exam boards. Perhaps the answer, then is for businesses to do what they can to help bridge the divide.

Our belief in this approach led us to launch Thomas Education last year; to bring psychometric assessment, a well-established tool in the business world, to the world of education.

Feedback from the schools we have worked with through Thomas Education confirms the necessity of helping students see the bigger picture instead of just their exam grades – ‘Our Year 10 students really started to see their GCSEs and A-Levels as a way forward rather than an end in themselves’, ‘The students now show greater motivation, a greater commitment to their school work and certainly a greater commitment to their chosen careers’, ‘It’s definitely given the young people confidence in being able to reflect on their own working strengths and behaviours and then utilise that information when planning their future direction.’ These are just a few of the comments we’ve received from schools we’ve worked with so far.

The number of schools using these techniques is growing month by month, with impressive results and very positive feedback – proof that schools are open to the idea of bridging the gap between business and education. From an employer’s perspective, I’m thrilled to see this change in attitudes and I honestly believe that closer links between students and their future employers will pay dividends in years to come.

For any business which cares about the quality of future generations of school leavers, taking the initiative to partner with schools is worth consideration. The education system often lacks the commercial experience to bring a management mindset to their work. There are plenty of ways for you to get involved, depending on your company’s area of expertise – mentoring sessions, speaking to students, work experience placements, lesson planning with a business focus or, in the case of Thomas Education, offering a tailored commercial service.

When young people come out of education switched on, professional and ready to hit the ground running, it benefits us all.

Find out more about Thomas International at:

About Mike Southon

Mike Southon is a serially successful entrepreneur, best-selling business author, mentor and one of the world’s top business speakers on entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship and sales.

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