The growth of small and medium business have changed the shape of the UK’s private sector, now counting for nearly a fifth of all employment. But are their doors closed for school-leavers and graduates?
Research from the British Chambers of Commerce revealed a caution amongst micro-businesses, those with fewer than ten employees, in hiring school leavers or recent graduates.
47% of those surveyed said they were “fairly” or “very nervous” about hiring school-leavers with A Levels or equivalent, with the principal concern over whether they had the right business skills. Only a fifth of firms, 22% said they would be “fairly” or “very confident”. Meanwhile only a third said they were “fairly confident about the skills of s recent graduate”.
The results reflect a scepticism in the skills school-leavers and graduates are receiving in education, and whether it prepares them for the world of business. Business communities have also pointed to tough economic conditions making employers less like to take a risk on a candidate fresh out of education.
However Edward Mellett of WikiJob.co.uk suggests in fact, this might offer an opportunity for both employers and potential employees.
“Small businesses are a fantastic opportunity for school-leavers to develop their skills in the workplace at a faster pace as often one individual in the organisation will be expected to undertake a wide variety of tasks and hit the ground running. School-leavers and graduates can work closely with business owners before they leave school and university to get a sense of the skills they are looking for, through work experience and summer holiday placement they can get a feel for businesses and receive advice on how to plug their skills gap.
“But this isn’t just about what school-leavers and graduates aren’t doing, it’s more about what small business owners aren’t doing. If they see a gap in skills in the education system then they should get involved and help provide advice and support to young people so they can develop the skills they see are lacking before they leave education.
“Young people, as we know, have enormous drive and passion and are often up to date on new technology and trends, vital for an SME where you have to stay one step ahead of your competitors. With more of a role in education, SMEs could tell schools and universities about the skills they need and more importantly provide support in developing them. A fifth of the private sector shouldn’t be closed to recent graduates, instead these business owners should be involved in ensuring school-leavers and graduates have the right skills to be ready for the job.”