From education to employment

1 in 4 businesses to employ college leavers with passion and a positive attitude

James Lott is co-founder and managing director of Working Knowledge

As Colleges get to grips with new work experience criteria for their 16 to 19 year old learners, a large-scale survey has identified a huge appetite from business to support young people to become job ready. A wide range of UK businesses including Atkins Nuclear, EE, MITIE and Francis Clarke LLP have expressed their intention to employ school or college leavers in the coming year – as long as they can demonstrate the right skills and attitude to secure the job.

We know that Colleges place a high priority on engaging employers and are taking action to address new work experience criteria. Over 95% of the Colleges we spoke to at the AOC Conference reported that they will find it very challenging to offer work experience opportunities to all their students, with 67% finding it hard to engage relevant employers.

We appreciate that Colleges have a significant task on their hands to provide meaningful work experience opportunities of a high standard for all learners whilst keeping employers engaged and supported. However, the below findings provide reassurance and a useful insight into the determination of industry to support young people in a challenging climate.

Passion, positive attitude and literacy skills

Of the 1,500 businesses we surveyed, over half (52%) prioritised passion over work experience and academic qualifications. Respondents said they would be most likely to look twice at a school or college leavers’ CV if they were able to ‘demonstrate a passion for their industry in their personal statement’.

Positive attitude, motivation and a good work ethic are the top 3 attitudes prospective employers would expect to see in a potential candidate. In terms of skills, good literacy levels, communication, teamwork and social skills are top of the list for employers.

Meaningful work experience opportunities

Interestingly and significantly, only 56% of businesses cite an ‘individual work placement with a relevant employer’ as the most useful work experience a potential new recruit could undertake. Respondents also chose ‘industry specific projects set and judged by business’ or ‘Dragons Den-style employability events with business volunteers’ as meaningful activities they would be interested in supporting.

Resources, time and ‘red tape’ are just some of the challenges employers cite as barriers to offering work experience placements to young people in education. 68% of employers surveyed said that the limited capacity and resources of their business would make it difficult to offer work placements to students.

Uncovering solutions – for Colleges and local employers

For the past eight years we have witnessed the enthusiasm and commitment of the 2,500 businesses we engage in employability programmes with our partner Colleges. Once their eyes are opened to the talent of young people in FE, businesses are very keen to do more – but need support and the right opportunities to stay engaged.

To uncover some solutions to these challenges, we are hosting a high-profile forum at New College Swindon this Thursday 25th April with senior management from 30 Further Education Colleges and industry experts representing leading employers including Intel, Wella, MITIE, BAM Construct and Salesforce.

We feel have an important role to play in guiding and supporting our partner colleges at this challenging time of funding reform. We are looking forward to sharing our extensive experience of engaging employers and seeing the results of lively facilitated discussions between the two sectors. We will be happy to report back on the outcomes of this forum and share more employer insights in FE News later in the Spring.

James Lott is co-founder and managing director of Working Knowledge, a social enterprise that creates chances for young people to open doors into employment. It offers a range of value-added work experience and employability services to Further Education Colleges that engage employers

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