Bridging the gap between school and work can be difficult, with young people struggling to find jobs and employers complaining that school leavers lack the qualities they need. The BBC visited a project in rural Suffolk aimed at building pupils’ employability…
Gary doesn’t fit the usual profile of people on work parties at the Minsmere nature reserve in Suffolk.
Aged 13, he’s part of a team of pupils from local secondary schools, drafted in to clear overgrown gorse bushes from heathland.
“I like destroying things that don’t need to be here. I am not much of a nature boy,” he says.
In times past the gorse would have been taken by locals for firewood or trampled by grazing animals. Although some of the land is still grazed, some of it has to be cleared by hand, usually by nature-loving volunteers.
Gary and his classmates are on a project to develop employability skills, run by four local schools and Minsmere’s owners, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The RSPB wants more young people to have a connection with nature, while the schools want to make sure their pupils have the skills and attitudes needed by local employers.
In rural, coastal areas like East Suffolk, in the backyard of the Sizewell nuclear power plant, jobs can be hard to find, particularly for young people without much experience.
In November the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said too many schools were like “exam factories” and should be doing more to instil “the skills and behaviours that businesses want”.
It called for more young people with “self-discipline” able to “serve customers well”.