From education to employment

68% of students feel underprepared for competitive UK job market

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Only 32% of young people across the UK say their education makes them feel very or extremely prepared for the job market

New research from Qualtrics shows that despite having higher levels of education than previous generations, less than one-third (32%) of young people in the UK feel very or extremely prepared by their education for the job market. While 81% of young people said they feel prepared to perform well in a job, only 67% feel prepared to look for a job and only 64% feel prepared to compete against other candidates. 

Qualtrics surveyed around 5,000 young people between the ages of 19 and 24, living across six different Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, in late 2022. Around 1000 of these respondents were based in the UK.

The research was conducted in support of the OECD Forum Engagement Group on the Future of Work. Facing challenging economic conditions, just over one-third (35%) of working respondents in the UK report being underemployed, meaning they are working part-time when they prefer to work full-time or are in a temporary position when they prefer a permanent position.

As the job market fluctuates and the skills in demand for today’s workforce continue to change, education institutions play an important role in providing knowledge and training to help students search for a job, prepare to compete against other candidates and succeed in a position. 

Participation in job-specific training was the top driver of perceived job preparedness in the UK. But only 23% of respondents report being offered job-specific training by their educational institutions, with hands-on learning (33%), technical skills education (31%) and providing information about jobs (31%) being more commonly offered. Young people whose education programs offered job-specific training were 16 percentage points (45% vs 29%) more likely to feel very or extremely prepared for the workforce than those whose programs did not.

Whereas most respondents in the UK (71%) said schools are responsible for giving advice on how and where to look for a job, 70% said providing resources for education and training opportunities was the government’s responsibility.

“Taking the time to listen to students’ experiences entering the workforce and understanding the specific challenges they face can help government and education institutions create the right interventions that will help ensure this generation of young people does not get left behind,” said Qualtrics Head of Industry Advisory Dr. Sydney Heimbrock. “If we understand the real drivers of job preparedness, we can put resources toward education, apprenticeship and training programs that have the most impact.” 

“Education should help young people accomplish their personal and professional goals,” said OECD Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher. “If that’s not happening, we need to take a careful look at the transition from school to work to ensure students are prepared to excel and meet life’s challenges, not just in the classroom, but in the world of employment as well.”

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