Employer-college link-up call to close ‘soft skills’ gap among graduates

Employers should wise up to working with colleges, schools and universities to ensure future job candidates possess appropriate skills, according to an HR chief.

Paul Speer, head of apprentice recruitment at communications giant BT, told Personnel Today there was a shortage of ‘soft skills’ – typically communication, negotiation, planning and problem solving – in many young job candidates. Organisations must work with education providers and “set the agenda” in how college graduates could be more job ready, Speer said.

“There’s a definite role to play for employers. By engaging with various institutions they can talk about what they need and what they can offer in return.”

He conceded it took time and effort for employers to get involved. “But that pales into insignificance with the benefits they will get in the end. Employers just have to bite the bullet and do it if they want to ensure they have the skills for the future.”

At an employability event hosted by accountancy firm Deloitte, Speer said that five years ago BT concentrated on employing academically skilled individuals, but that without the soft skills they struggled to settle into the work culture. Now he is working closely with local colleges to ensure students are taught the skills required by BT.

Also at the event, Mike Rake, chairman of the BT Group and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, said that ’employability skills’ remained a major issue for business and for the UK economy.

“We can’t afford to educate our young people without giving them the personal, management and communication skills they need to be effective in the workplace,” he said. “It is vital that business, education and government find ways to work together.”

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