Future proofing our girls

Posted on: 07 Apr 2016
Posted by: Hilary French

Recent debate surrounding the UK ‘skills gap’ mean that is now more critical than ever for businesses and schools to work together before the gulf becomes too wide to bridge… Writes Hilary French, Headmistress at Newcastle High School for Girls GDST.

Debate has been raging over the UK–wide ‘skills gap’ with businesses and industry lamenting the lack of suitably trained recruits entering the jobs market. Schools, colleges and universities are all being blamed for failing to equip young people with the right skills and experience to fill jobs now and into the future.
Critics argue that young people are leaving education and training ill equipped to deal with the rigours of the workplace and without the necessary skills to take on future challenges.

How we break this cycle and whose responsibility it is, is a moot point. As an educator, I am acutely aware of the role I play and my responsibility to educate and train the next generation of workers. At Newcastle High, the majority of our girls will leave school and go on to study at University delaying their entry into work for three or more years, but we are still conscious of the need to equip them with transferable, work-related skills and an understanding of what employers are looking for in their staff.

On the flip side, I am also extremely keen that our girls understand and see the wide range of opportunities available to them across all industry sectors regionally, nationally and internationally

Our recent CareerConnect initiative enabled us to work closely with North East business and industry to identify, understand and plug skills shortages across a wide range of business sectors and introduce our girls to businesses to explore all opportunities open to them.

It is crucial that businesses and schools work together to plug the skills gap before the gulf becomes too wide to bridge. Research has shown that the parameters for career choice are set from an early age by the people with whom you come into contact; if young people do not meet, and get an insight into, different jobs, they will never be an option for them. It is our job to open their eyes and their minds and to avoid limited career routes into the same jobs as their parents or friends. We want them to know and explore all their options.

Education has always been about so much more than academic qualifications. Now more than ever, we must extend teaching beyond the confines of the classroom and the national curriculum and provide an insight into what the future holds in the way of jobs and careers in the vast and ever changing market place. It is crucial that in the creative arts, in STEM subjects and in the humanities, the huge range of opportunities that exist for young people are clear and that they start acquiring the skills, experience and qualifications they will need to enjoy these opportunities and career choices in the future.

In today’s society – these learning opportunities are invaluable and schools have a responsibility to broaden horizons by forging links outside school and into local industry and business. It is through these links that young people will gain the requisite skills for work as well as learning about the vast array of opportunities that exist.

We know that for our girls, it will be these opportunities and links forged outside the curriculum and the classroom that will play a huge role in shaping their future careers.

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About Hilary French

Hilary French is Headmistress at Newcastle High School for Girls GDST, a leading day school for girls aged 3 - 18.