School leavers to get hi-tech help

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Business leaders and educationalists from across South Yorkshire have joined forces to ensure the next generation of school leavers has the skills to secure hi-tech jobs with local manufacturers.

Company chiefs, top council officials, head teachers and school governors discussed over dinner in the Cutlers’ Hall what each needed from the other to close the skills gap and help to guarantee economic growth for the region.

Master Cutler Bill Speirs told guests: “The facts of life are that the Government is not going to pour money into business and education, so we are going to have to work together to pull ourselves up by our own boot laces.”

Vince Middleton, managing director of Newburgh Engineering said there was a massive discontinuity between education and industry.

“Industry feels there are too many people in education who don’t know that much about engineering and manufacturing,” said Mr Middleton, whose company sponsored the event and was one of the driving forces behind the Workwise initiative, which provides work experience that can lead to a full time job.

“Industry was so little appreciated, yet everything around us was created by it,” said Mr Middleton.

“What we are asking for is for the opportunitiy to explain some of the frustrations we might have about education and for education to explain some of the frustrations it has about industry,” he added.

Nick Duggan, from Sheffield City Council’s Department for Children, Young People and Families, assured business leaders: “We really want to listen to the business community; to get your views about what you want from the education system.

“We want to motivate young people, to give them the skills, abilities and qualities to enable them to contribute to the community.”

Mr Duggan said hundreds of children were involved with engineering initiatives and pass rates for courses involving engineering or manufacturing were around the 80 to 90 per cent mark and Sheffield had been short listed as a potential location for one of the first University Technical Colleges to be established in the country.

The Colleges are a new concept in education, offering 14-19 year olds the opportunity to follow a full time, technically-oriented course of study, sponsored by a university and offering clear routes into higher education or further learning in work.

Jackie Freeborn, chief executive of Business & Education South Yorkshire, said the Cutlers’ Hall event showed there was massive good will supporting the drive for closer links between education and business.

One in five young people was jobless and the situation was going to become more challenging.

“We all have a responsibility to encourage our young people to have skills they need to go into employment,” said Jackie Freeborn

“We need to start talking strategically.

“We have to expand support for the business community. If we work together we can make it better for both of us.”

Business and education leaders came up with a series of ideas which they will now pursue, such as industry providing mentors and role models to encourage pupils to consider manufacturing as a career and provide the stimulus which might not be present at home.