Rapid Changes in Technology
There has been a dramatic rise in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) with providers from around the world and a few universities offering whole Bachelor's degrees online. In addition, increasingly younger students are choosing to study through the Open University: in 2011, 32,000 undergraduates under 25-years-old represented approximately 25% of new students with 55% of them also in full-time employment. For older people, these courses have led to more opportunities for people to update their skills, or learn new skills and develop knowledge.
Also, websites such as Wikipedia offer information at your fingertips, which has led to knowledge per se being less important. What's more important is understanding how to use the information, and whether it's relevant and valid to the issue at hand.
The UK Skills Shortage
The recent CBI and Pearson education and skills survey found that school leavers don’t have the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace with weaknesses in the core competencies of at least some of their employees in literacy (54%), numeracy (53%) and IT skills (61%). These problems most severe in the construction sector as major new projects get under way, with firms anticipating problems in the next three years in finding technicians (47%), graduate recruits (37%) and suitable people to train as apprentices (36%).
Furthermore, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills found that 146,2000 job vacancies (22%) last year were unfilled due to inadequate skills; the UK is currently growing as an economy, but businesses not able to make the most of the upturn because they can’t find the right people.
The Increasing Cost of Higher Education
As you may well know, the current government have increased university tuition fees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to up to £9,000, hence many graduates face money worries and years of debt when they leave university. There have been talks that average student debt could reach £53,000.
These worries have trickled down to children, with recently published report commissioned by Fun Kids Radio finding that children as young as eight are fiscally aware, with one in four (24%) worrying about the family’s finances. A fifth (21%) said they would forgo university to get a job as soon as they left school to earn money instead, while and less than half (46%) said they wanted to go to university. The cost of education was a big factor, as 15% of children under the age of 14 already think that university will cost too much.
Failing Careers Advice in Schools
A report published last year by public sector union, Unison, found that 83% of schools didn't employ a professional careers adviser, and the role was being picked up by those ill-equipped, such as teaching assistants and other support staff.
At the same time, a worrying 93% of young people have recently claimed that they weren't provided with all the information they needed in making an informed decision about their career, leading the CBI to claim that careers advice in England is in "severe crisis" and even "on life support" in some areas.
Furthermore, parents are of little help, with many findings claiming that there is a 'disconnect' between parents' traditional careers advice to their children and the needs of the job market. For example, in one survey commissioned by O2, one in 10 parents said they would “actively” discourage their kids from digital jobs such as coding, with 23% thinking these skills to be "irrelevant", while 38% said they would advise their children to take up law or medicine. However, technology firms have increasingly stated that there are too few graduates with digital skills, such as web design or computer programming, for the jobs available, with 20,000 graduate vacancies and only 7,500 computer science graduates to fill them in the software industry alone.
High UK Unemployment Rates
From April to June 2014 955,000 young people (aged from 16 to 24) in the UK were Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) representing 13% of young people. A long period out of work, while young, can have a long-lasting effect on a person’s chances, leading to a higher future likelihood of unemployment and lower future earnings. At the same time, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that unemployment can lead to depression, for example a study conducted by the Universities and College Union found that 40% of NEETs felt as though they were "not part of society" while 33% said that they had suffered from depression.
These consequences also influence the wider economy, with each NEET costing the taxpayer £56,000 over a lifetime.