Government and employers called to boost employability of school leavers

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has again called for the government and employers to work more closely together to improve the employability of school leavers.

The call comes on the day when thousands of GSCE students receive their results – many of whom will now be looking for work.

The CIPD’s views are based on its latest quarterly Labour Market Outlook survey of more than 1,400 UK employers. It shows that employers are placing much more emphasis on the soft skills of school leavers, such as communication skills and work ethic, than on literacy and numeracy. 

It also shows that while a quarter of employers list literacy as one of the key attributes they look for when recruiting from the current crop of school leavers, the ones that top the list are communication skills, work ethic and personality.

Eileen Arney, CIPD learning and development adviser, said: “Today’s employers are seeking a wider range of skills that include communication, interpersonal skills and developing a work ethic. Students, schools and employers need to work together to ensure that school leavers are ready for work. 

“And the students themselves need to be prepared to keep engaging in life-long learning to keep their skills up to date and attractive to employers.”

The education system could help close the ‘employability gap’ by introducing more oral-based tests and work experience schemes, Arney said.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Almost two-thirds of employers (64%) report no change in the quality of school leavers during the past five years. One in 10 consider quality to have improved, citing improvements in qualifications and a more mature attitude to work. However, a higher proportion (26%) indicate that quality has deteriorated, pointing to problems related to listening skills, numeracy and attitude

  • Half of employers ranked improved interpersonal skills in their top three suggestions when asked what the education system might do to improve the employability of school leavers. This was followed by greater efforts to encourage young people to take responsibility (40%), improvements in communication skills (38%), and better discipline (32%)

  • Among those employers that hire school leavers, the most popular initiatives taken to help them make the transition into work are on-the-job training (cited by 86% of employers) and induction courses (83%). Just under half of employers surveyed (47%) offer apprenticeships.

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