We have all seen the excellent results that have been reported in the increased grades as well as in the numbers of pupils who have successfully passed their GCSE's and A Levels this year.

Before anyone starts to say that I am denigrating the students, let me clearly state that I am not. But I do believe that we should be questioning how we can change the attitudes of those who teach today's pupils and students so that we can increase the skills base required across the region for the 21st century and beyond.

We hear stories that coursework can be returned several times to enhance grades, that people no longer fail, and that the percentages of marks to achieve a good pass becomes lower and lower.

We also hear that instead of pupils being set higher standards to enable them to achieve more, this is felt to be too tough for their 'ability'.

How does this teach them to face what the real outside world of business and commerce is, in fact, all about?

Whether true or false, businesses are beginning to lose faith in the ability of our schools and colleges to educate and teach their pupils and students to the standards which we need to take those basics forward, and to continue training them to higher levels with today's, as well as tomorrow's, technology needs in mind.

Pieces of paper are becoming meaningless, and we only have to look at India and China to see how many of their young people are becoming better at competing with us in the skills marketplace.

There is a problem, and businesses see this in the lack of skills in the basic subjects of reading, writing and mathematics as well as in the smaller and smaller numbers of young people who consider a 'business' career - whether that is in manufacturing or the service sector.

We also see it clearly in the lack of young people taking up apprenticeships in engineering trades across the whole spectrum of industry, and in the large gap in skilled tradesmen that is harming our construction sector.

We may indeed be seeing large numbers of traditional manufacturing jobs going, but equally we must also educate and train our young people in the skills that we shall need to add value to our manufacturers, our trades, and our service sector to help and enable them to grow in the future.

Equally we must try and teach our young people to understand the meaning of business, and the benefit to our wider communities that a thriving business sector actually has.

This must come from our teachers and society as a whole, but as importantly, we as business people must be willing to help in getting our message across to those same teachers in our schools, colleges and our universities.

Many people are trying to change this, but without a joined up approach from across Government departments, as well as the necessary resources and commitment across all sectors in ensuring that the approach is truly demand driven, are we ever going to be able to achieve what businesses and our economy must have to remain competitive?

Nowhere more important is this than in our small business sector who far too often do not get the support they require, and who are the growth businesses of tomorrow.

* Mike Cherry is the West Midlands policy unit chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses.