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Work Ready - what needs to change

14th November 2019

‘Work Readiness’ is one of the top key drivers of employer engagement with young people in education.  However; young people, employers and educators are not all on the same page when they talk about this which impacts on the preparation and recruitment for work readiness.  Understanding this led to a research piece which aimed to highlight the disparity of perceptions and find out what needs to change. 

The report defined work readiness ‘Young People possessing the skills, attitude and attributes that make them prepared or ready for success in the work environment’

These skills, attitudes and attributes were identified by employers as; problem solving, resilience, communication, literacy, numeracy, time management, getting on with people, ability and willingness to learn new skills, positive attitude to work and being adaptive and flexible.  Interestingly, when we look at research nationally about skills of the future ‘Meta Skills’, these are mostly aligned to those identified above yet creativity was not highlighted by any employers as a work ready characteristic and only prioritised by creative industries in job adverts.

The research, which included a study of over 270 advertised apprenticeships and entry level jobs targeted at young people in 2018, identified a contrast between what employers identify as work ready characteristics and what is requested in jobs adverts.  For work readiness, only 5% of employers identified qualifications and exam results as a top 5 priority where 76% of adverts quoted qualifications as a priority.   Also, the first step in most recruitment processes is to demonstrate skills, attributes and attitude through an application form alongside experience and exam results/qualifications.  As the latter are more commonly used as a simple benchmark for short listing, employers may be missing the opportunity to recruit young people with well-matched soft skills to their business. 
Employers were able to recommend what would enhance the work readiness of young people.  including part time work, work experience, volunteering, activities outside of school, wider achievement awards and engaging with employers.

In contrast, young people’s views of how to get work ready highlight a majority are working hard for exams.

Research shows that young people who engage with employers are more likely to progress into something positive after school and engagements with employers also impact on earnings potential and social mobility.   The research identifies that only half stated that this is something they are experiencing.

A couple of additional challenges to note here are the two areas, work experience and part time work.  Firstly, we know that work experience is invaluable for young people yet a majority of employers do not offer this opportunity then look for this when employing young people.  Secondly, part time work proves challenging as for entry level positions many employers are asking for qualifications and work experience. Young people are trying to get part time work to achieve the goal of work experience, it is a catch 22.

So what needs to change? Our research highlights that:

Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy is about collaboration, partnership and a shared responsibility supporting young people to be work ready.  The recommendations identified in the research are all achievable through your Developing the Young Workforce regional group.   

To get involved and make a difference for your future workforce please do get in touch.
Michelle Fenwick
Director, DYW Edinburgh, Midlothian and East Lothian

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