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6 ways the next government should support student employers

November 2019

With the general election just weeks away, chief executive Stephen Isherwood sets out the Institute of Student Employers' wishlist for the new government

The education, recruitment and development of people at the start of their career journey is vitally important to the health and productivity of the UK economy. It is of even greater importance to the individuals that we are looking to educate and develop.

For too long the UK has not been very good at transitioning students through education and into work, through either vocational or academic pathways. The skills gap has become a cliché and is often misunderstood and misreported. Too often either employers or educators are blamed. And too often problems that are created earlier in the cycle, such as the lack of careers education and skills development in schools, are left for universities and employers to fix.

How we educate and train people early on in their careers must be a priority for the next government. This is why we have just launched our latest manifesto.1 It represents the calls of our members - hundreds of UK employers who recruit tens of thousands of students, graduates, apprentices and interns every year.2

Government should be encouraging and supporting universities to collaborate with local businesses

Here are six key policies that the next government should action to support our industry:

1. Emphasise employer-university collaboration

Universities are engines of economic development and higher education graduates are a key source of talent for all businesses. Higher education policy should be designed with a clear understanding of the needs of the labour market. Government should be encouraging and supporting universities to collaborate with local businesses, grow employer contributions to the curriculum and provide an employer liaison function.

2. Streamline the apprenticeship system

The apprenticeship system has seen radical changes over the last few years and we now need to see commitment to its maintenance, in consultation with employers. Government should commit to the principle that the levy should not be a payroll tax and that good employers get out more than they put in, ensure transparency in the use of unspent money, and increase the flexibility in how the levy can be used - as well as review the requirement for 20% of time on apprenticeships to be spent off the job.

3. Facilitate better outcomes for disadvantaged students

Social mobility and diversity bring enormous economic benefits. Businesses and educators need support to improve outcomes for all young people, including enabling access to a wide range of work experience - with those of more than four weeks paid at least the relevant National Minimum Wage. Government should be required to implement an action plan based on the Social Mobility Commission's recommendations and investigate whether socioeconomic status' can be added to the Equality Act. We would also like to see education providers report student outcomes based on the Equality Act and all university admissions using contextual data.

It is essential that the UK builds a strong vocational system with parity of esteem to higher education pathways

4. Extend careers hubs across the country

The government should support schools and colleges to implement the Gatsby Benchmarks and deliver 'good career guidance' for all students. This should include stipulating that schools and colleges identify a careers leader for employer liaison and ensuring that careers education receives dedicated curriculum time as well as supporting schools to use Destination Measures. We would also like to see Ofsted have a more rigorous focus on how well schools are delivering career guidance.

5. Invest in vocational education and engage employers

It is essential that the UK builds a strong vocational system with parity of esteem to higher education pathways. Employers should be consulted in the design of new initiatives like T-levels and government should be cautious in its expectation of employers to provide additional work experience for the education system.

6. Enable businesses to access high quality global talent

Migration policy should be designed flexibly to recognise the different needs of regions, sectors and occupations and so that employers can recruit the talent that they need with the minimum of cost and bureaucracy. This includes simplifying the student visa process and maintaining EU learning mobility schemes such as the Erasmus programme.

To find out more, read the ISE Manifesto 2019/2020 and get involved using #ISEmanifesto

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of HECSU/Prospects.

Notes

  1. Manifesto 2019/2020, ISE, 2019.
  2. Our members, ISE, 2019.

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