I wrote this article recently for the business community of Lithuania.
Wherever I travel around the world at the moment, I find myself having the same conversation with business leaders. “There’s something wrong with the education system,” they tell me. “Young people are leaving school with great academic qualifications, but they’re just not ready for the workplace. They don’t understand how to work in teams, the importance of punctuality, the need to keep going when life gets tough. They give up too easily.”
Those business leaders are right. A first class academic education is essential, but it’s only half the story of what a young person needs to equip themselves for life. Not only do they need a good formal education, they need a great non-formal education too. Non-formal education is what goes on outside the classroom – sport and physical recreation, community service, adventurous activity and the development of new skills. Non-formal education helps young people to develop the qualities of perseverance, grit, curiosity, optimism and self-control. Economists might describe these qualities as non-cognitive. Psychologists might call them ‘personality traits’. To the rest of us, they’re just known as ‘character’ and the development of character is the business of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. We help equip young people for life.
The Award provides a framework for schools and youth organisations when planning their non-formal education activities. It asks young people to commit time and effort to activity in each of those four areas of experience: Physical Recreation, Service, Skills and the undertaking of a self-planned Adventurous Journey. Young people choose their own pathway through the framework, building their own individual programmes. In so doing, they discover new things about themselves and develop the skills, behaviours and attitudes needed to be good citizens. When they earn their Award, they receive internationally acclaimed recognition of their achievements, which they can then use to tell their story to prospective employers or universities.
So, as an employer, when you are looking for young people with great academic achievements and character, look for someone who has achieved their Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. And help us to grow by telling your network of business colleagues that you look out for the Award on young people’s résumés – and that they should do so too.
There are other ways that you can help us and benefit as well.
We can work with you to develop your community engagement and outreach activities. The Award can be used to develop targeted interventions in your key markets to create a lasting social and economic impact. This may focus around working with specific disadvantaged, socially challenged and marginalised groups on a particular area of interest.
We can support your talent management, apprenticeships and staff leadership initiatives. We can work with you to establish or develop your existing development or apprenticeship programmes for the younger members of your workforce (under 24 years of age). This “Award in Business” opportunity has already been taken up by a number of businesses in the UK, India, Australia and Singapore and has proven to be beneficial at both the individual and business levels.
And we can work with you to create or grow local volunteering opportunities for members of your workforce. There are sound business reasons for engaging in employee volunteering including positive effects on brand value and reputation as well as employee engagement with corporate values.
That conversation about problems with the education system is always the start of doing great things with the business leaders that I meet. It was the late Marcus Sieff, when he was chairman of British retailer Marks and Spencer, who coined the saying, “Healthy high streets need healthy back streets.” Working with The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award benefits the businesses that get involved, as well as the communities that provide their customers and future employees. Equipping young people for life is not just a noble endeavour. It’s a business imperative.