Britain’s skills crisis was addressed by the country’s leading educationalists today at The Spectator’s half-day conference, Giving Britain the skills it needs.

Matthew Hancock, Minister for Skills and Enterprise, delivered the key note speech. In it he outlined his plans for better preparing young people for employment. ‘I’m determined that apprenticeships  become the established route for all school-leavers who don’t go to university; not as a second option,’ he said, before adding that ‘demanding higher standards of people isn’t setting them up for failure, as we’ve often heard from the left.’

Hancock’s speech focussed on the need to establish how technology must be used to ‘spread opportunity.’ Schools and colleges should embrace new sciences, such as data analytics and e-assessments, to benefit both students and teachers. He acknowledged The Spectator’s success at combining the old and the new, ‘despite being the oldest continuously published magazine in English, you have wholeheartedly embraced the digital revolution.’

Lorna Fitzjohn, Director of Further Education and Skills at Ofsted then took to the stage to outline what makes for an outstanding careers education. Fitzjohn emphasised the importance of a system that is flexible to students’ idiosyncratic needs, so that they are well-equipped to manage their own careers guidance in the long-term.

The conference was closed by Steve Holliday, Chief Executive of National Grid plc, who remains optimistic that schools and businesses can efficiently collaborate to prepare students for the working world.

Live polling was conducted throughout the conference, with audiences voting on questions posed by Careers Lab, an initiative that works to bring businesses to schools.. The result showed that 91% of voters were given unhelpful careers advice at school. 83% thought that pupils’ post-school destinations ought to be measured and 90% welcomed employers supporting schools in delivering careers advice. As expected, the conference and the polls reflected the ongoing need for our education system to adapt and accommodate contemporary business requirements.

To watch the full conference, including panel discussions Schools are from Mars, businesses are from Venus: Can they work together? andCareers Initiatives – is there a danger of too many cooks spoiling the broth? Click here.

Tags: Education, Matthew Hancock, Schools, Skills, Technology