Business greets GCSE results with mixed emotions

Business leaders saw both good news and bad news in the latest batch of GCSE results. What are the worries of top UK businesses?

A young man and young woman apprentices on a construction job
While the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) applauded the increase in maths and science entries, it expressed concern that still not enough pupils in 'global Britain' were taking foreign languages.Meanwhile, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) called on the government to "take urgent action now" to boost the funding that small firms need to take on an apprentice.And the manufacturers' organisation Make UK said the country needed to see more teenagers opting for vocational courses and more girls pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) apprenticeships.

UK businesses seek workers with STEM skills

Congratulating pupils getting their results on Thursday, John Cope, head of education and skills policy at the CBI, said there were "great options" for pupils to pursue in both educational and vocational training.“STEM subjects are increasingly being recognised by young people as one of the best passports to future career success. Businesses are crying out for more skills in these areas as the world of work is transformed by new tech and the digital revolution," he said.

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“Computing has traditionally struggled to attract young women to study at GCSE, so such a healthy increase in female entries can only be good news in eliminating outdated gender stereotypes.

More GCSEs in creative subjects needed because the UK creative industry is fast growing

"Employers will be pleased to see some recovery in the number of people doing arts subjects, but this year’s results still show a worrying narrowing of the curriculum. The creative industries are one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK economy, so the decline in creative subjects must be reversed.“The government’s vision of a welcoming and open ‘Global Britain’ means it’s essential more people take modern foreign languages, or the UK will get left behind.“The significant boost in Spanish entries is particularly encouraging, but the decline in students taking German shows we still have a long way to go."
Read more about GCSE results and UK education:

UK businesses stress the importance of apprenticeships

Make UK took the opportunity of results day to stress that there were still an "amazing apprenticeships" on offer at some of the UK's leading companies.The organisation described a manufacturing apprenticeship as "the perfect pathway to a fulfilling career, which from the start pays more than the national average offering options for those just leaving school armed with their GCSEs to full degree apprenticeships".Andrea Bull, head next generation marketing at Make UK said: “Long gone are the days when academic pathways such as university were the only options for bright, talented young people. Apprenticeships are now firmly and proudly in the spotlight and manufacturers have plans to increase the number of apprenticeships within their business.“There are exciting opportunities within our vibrant and innovative sector. From shop floor to top floor, manufacturers are investing in the next generation of innovators, creators and makers through apprenticeships.“We need to see more young people choosing vocational pathways and more girls pursuing STEM apprenticeships. This will widen the talent pool available to manufacturers who are keeping their doors wide open for their future leaders.”The FSB agreed that more must be done to make pupils aware of the opportunities offered by apprenticeships and, from next year, by the new T-level technology courses.Mike Cherry, the organisation's national chairman, said: “Each year pupils will make critical decisions about how they intend to further their education, which for some will mean going onto study A-Levels. But while that may suit some pupils entering Sixth Form, it doesn’t help others who may thrive far better elsewhere.

Learn more about how to create a "Future Fit" workforce in our article about Angela Middleton, MBE, founder of apprenticeship training provider MiddletonMurray.

The message to the UK government? More apprenticeship funding

“Education Secretary Gavin Williamson must take urgent action now, to shore up the vital funding that small firms need to take on an apprentice.“There are serious concerns about the likely exhaustion of the levy budget and the consequences for non-levy paying employers. Which is why the forthcoming spending review is crucial to ensuring that funds are replenished.“The new Secretary of State must also do more to reduce the upfront costs attached to the recruitment of apprentices. Our research shows the biggest challenge attached to engaging with apprenticeships is the recruitment of an apprentice, with 42% of smaller businesses with apprentices struggling with this.“When it comes to skills shortages, skilled trade occupations report the highest number of shortages at 37%, an issue that needs addressing urgently and could be helped by increasing the number of apprentices. This is why the promotion of technical skills is so vital.“There is much more to be done to ensure that the future of education and skills is brighter and successful which is why actions must be taken sooner rather than later.”

For more news, visit our Enterprise and Education sections.

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