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As social media and technology begin to change the landscape of higher education, admissions officers are looking for new ways to get to know potential students.

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This all sounds rather impressive to the unaffected bystander, but British firms are struggling more and more, according to CIMA research, to find skilled candidates for junior roles: 31% of firms more than two months to fill junior roles, and on appointment, three quarters need further training. More than 90% of those surveyed in the UK reported that their workload had increased as a result of skills shortages, with 46% agreeing it had caused a fall in departmental performance. However, the top areas of weakness for new recruits seem to be much more on the side of ‘soft skills’, such as people skills alongside essential business know-how rather than the more academic skills that Gove advocates. With the new GCSE and A Level system focusing more and more on academics, and getting students from one education system to the next, these more ‘real-world’ skills seem to be getting gradually left by the wayside, creating concern in the business community.


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These exhausted folks, hopped up from eating too many cookies and brownies, have been sitting in committee meetings for days after spending a couple of months reading applications, most of which look pretty similar: baseball = life, or debate = life, or “I went to a developing country and discovered poor people can be happy.”


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“One of the major struggles I have found with young people is that none of them know how to use a phone! Something so simple, yet I find more and more than students leaving school just don’t have those raw soft skills that are so necessary in any job.

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Of course these cuts have a lot more to do with the economy rather than a label of necessity, but nevertheless we are seeing more and more businesses shouting out for new recruits who have analytical skills, people skills, business and vocational experience.

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Although these subjects aren’t necessarily viewed by most as ‘essential’, in particular in the eyes of current academia, the trend that our education system seems to be reverting to is a worrying one. What is deemed a ‘soft’ subject by academics is not a realistic reflection on the needs of either young people or businesses – or indeed the future workforce.

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Simon continued: “Examination boards seem to have used the A Level reforms, and thus the re-writing of each syllabus, to review the subjects being offered. History of Art, Classics and Archaeology are all under the axe. In all of these subjects the numbers of students have been getting fewer year on year and the number of qualified teachers in these specialist areas are also declining. This in turn means that there is smaller pool of potential examiners and markers for the papers. Simply put, the subjects are no longer seen to be viable in business terms.”

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Simon Mower, Principal of gave us an overview of the changes being made to GCSEs and A Levels: “Essentially, the structure of the A Level course will be reverting to the way it was a number of years ago. Instead of each of the two years being examined separately (i.e. exams at the end of Year 1 and exams at the end of Year 2), it will be a two-year course with just one set of examinations at the end.”