Employers happy with younger workers but skills gap persists

Most employers are happy with the calibre of young people they recruit, although one in five say their existing workforce lacks skills, according to a survey of nearly 80,000 employers.

The National Employer Skills Survey for England questioned 79,152 employers about their recruitment problems, skills gaps and training practices during the height of last year’s recession.

It found that:

  • Levels of vacancies, including hard-to-fill vacancies and skills shortage vacancies fell sharply, in line with what might be expected during a recession.
  • Levels of skills gaps – where employees are not fully proficient at their jobs – rose from 15% in 2007 to 19% in 2009.
  • The number of employers offering training has remained stable, but the proportion of staff they train fell from 63% in 2007 to 56% last year.

In addition, in the 12 months prior to the research, a quarter (23%) of employers had recruited a young person to their first job – less than in 2007 (26%).

Of these, three-quarters thought that 17- or 18-year-old college or school leavers were well prepared for work, and 84% of employers recruiting new graduates found them to be well prepared.

Chris Humphries, chief executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, which commissioned the research, said: “Employers who actually have experience of working with young people seem to be much more positive about them than employers more generally. So whilst it is important to continue efforts to make school, college and university leavers as work-ready as possible, it is up to employers to leave their prejudices behind and ensure they make the most of this pool of talent.

“Work experience, apprenticeships and internships are an easy and relatively risk-free way of sampling the calibre of young people, and I would encourage all employers to provide these, as well as being open-minded enough to make suitable permanent positions available for young people looking for their first job.”

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