Oil tycoon Ian Wood calls for change in schools

Alex Salmond and Sir Ian Wood chat before today's meeting. Picture: Fraser Bremner
Alex Salmond and Sir Ian Wood chat before today's meeting. Picture: Fraser Bremner
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ONE of Scotland’s most successful captains of industry has called for a culture change in the way youngsters are prepared for the “world of work”, including classroom lessons on the workplace.

Oil and gas services magnate Sir Ian Wood said too many Scottish youngsters don’t “understand” what work is all about - but businesses must do more in schools to prepare them for the change.

The pair share a joke. Picture: Fraser Bremner

The pair share a joke. Picture: Fraser Bremner

More apprenticeships should be provided and could even get underway in the classroom, he told the National Economic Forum in Edinburgh today.

The former Wood Group supremo is heading up a commission aimed tackling the underlying problems behind the youth unemployment problem in Scotland.

He said that only one in four firms currently take on staff straight from school.

“That’s quite a statistic,” he told the gathering of business leaders.

He said that despite recent falls there are still about 61,000 young people out of work in Scotland - up more than 10,000 over the past five years.

He added: “The 61,000 means there are still that number of young people in Scotland waking up every morning and believing that their community has no real need for them.”

He said the overwhelming majority of schools - about 90% - are run for the academically driven pupils which only account for half of youngsters.

He said that non-academic pupils don’t have a “clear pathway” or destination at school and are left “simply drifting.”

The Commission’s interim report in August will call for the vocational education can be “enhanced”, he said.

Schools must do more to provide youngsters with a better understanding of the “world of work,” the oil and gas services magnate said.

“All young people should have enhanced employability learning quite early in senior school,” he said.


A constant feedback theme from employers is young people turning up for a job who “don’t really have any feeling of what employability is about or really understanding the world of work.”

The Conmission is also set to call for better careers advice in schools and Sir Ian said businesses have an “immense role” to play in ensuring that youngsters understand the workplace.

He added: “This will be best done with long term partnerships from schools and colleges who both need to allocate more resources to work at this.”

More apprenticeships could also be made available to provide “on the job training.”

There are now in excess of 25,000 modern apprenticeships in Scotland.

But Sir Ian added: “Employers should be encouraged - and can encouraged - to offer significantly more good quality apprenticeships.

“If that’s the case, the annual number should certainly be increased.”

The prospect of apprenticeships getting underway in schools around the country was also raised by the tycoon.

“If we could introduce this pathway in schools and actually cover the first part of the theoretical - the classroom work - young people would then go into the apprenticeship and start working right away.”

This would be a “huge encouragement” for smaller firms to take on apprentices, he added.

But too many firms have been “passive consumers” of the education system.

“By far the largest part of business and industry in Scotland sees their interest in education beginning when they start looking for someone to employ.

“That’s entirely wrong.”

He called on more firms to “participate” in helping achieve the best from college education.