9 September 2014

  |  CBI Northern Ireland

News

Preparing our young people for their future

It is the job of industry to work with the education sector to make sure the best platform for sustained economic growth – delivered through the skills and abilities of our young people – is now achieved.

First published in the Newsletter, 9 September 2014

In the last few weeks, students from right across Northern Ireland have been receiving their all-important GCSE and A Level results.

With Northern Ireland continuing to outperform the rest of the UK across many of the key metrics – including the number of A’s and A*’s combined at A Level – our congratulations quite rightly go out to those who have realised such high levels of achievement.

To realise the high skills economy that will best prepare us for the continuing challenge of ensuring Northern Ireland is an attractive place to do business and invest in, we need to be constantly improving our levels of educational attainment.

But it is crucial to remember that attainment, better performance and success should not just be measured by exam results alone.

The best education systems globally, and the best schools in the UK and Ireland, start with a clear idea of what their system should deliver.

Everything they do is then aligned to meet this goal. In Northern Ireland, business is clear that the school and college system must deliver young people who are rigorous, rounded and grounded – with key attitudes and behaviours as well as knowledge and skills.

This will form the backdrop to a report we will be publishing in the autumn that looks at how improving education for all in society is essential to enhancing Northern Ireland’s long-term economic prospects.

Building on the publication of First Steps in 2012, we will critically address why the current educational systems continue to fail too many young people in our society.

With a renewed focus on the rigorous, rounded and grounded approach, we will make recommendations as to the key reforms required to ensure that all young people are equipped with the knowledge, skills and behaviours to succeed in both work and life.

From our point of view, this will include looking again at how to further promote the uptake of all the all-important STEM subjects in our schools, how to make computing a key subject component for children of all ages and how subjects like Maths and English should be studied by all, in some form, to the age of 18.

The report will also address the broad nature of skills that are required to achieve our economic potential.

From university to high level and high quality apprenticeships, with much credit due to the new employer-led apprenticeships programme that has been developed by the Employment and Learning Minister, there are many options for our young people to pursue.

It is the job of industry to work with the education sector to make sure the best platform for sustained economic growth – delivered through the skills and abilities of our young people – is now achieved.