From education to employment

Addressing the employability skills gap

Sylvia Perrins is chief executive of the National Skills Academy for Financial Services

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has recently urged the government for greater focus on employability skills in the British education system in 2014.

This comes following last year’s reports from the CIPD (the aptly named Employers are from Mars, Young People are from Venus) and CBI (Changing the Pace) showing that the attitude, skills and general aptitude of young people are often considered to be more important to employers than grades and work experience.

In today’s competitive and graduate-inflated job market, achieving good grades at school – or even at university – is not enough for young people to secure employment.

Employers are continuing to find themselves disappointed with young job candidates, who frequently fall down in areas of preparation and self-presentation in applications and interviews, often struggling to convey sufficient interest in the company and appropriately draw on real life examples to demonstrate their skill sets.

The employment of 16-18-year-olds is at its lowest in the financial services and health sectors, where there is generally a strong bias towards employing graduates.

Supporting students to become more work-ready involves providing opportunities for the development of non-academic skills and abilities of value in a workplace, such as communication, team-work, problem solving, initiative and self-discipline.

While employers need to do more to draw out these skills from young people in their recruitment processes, FE and HE students need encouragement to take responsibility for developing the sorts of skills that will prepare them for the workplace.

One of the FE programmes that the National Skills Academy delivers across the UK is Barclays Money Skills ‘weeks’, which offers colleges a unique toolkit of tutorials and activities aimed at improving students’ financial and employability skills.

The programme, now in its fourth year, also includes a new peer learning component called Barclays Money Skills ‘college champions’, aimed at providing students with the opportunity to take on extra responsibility and develop a wide range of the employability skills sought by employers.

Colleges receive resources to train their ‘college champions’, who are then equipped with suitable and impactful activities to run in informal settings.

By taking part in this element, learners will demonstrate their ability to take initiative, and develop important employability skills such as communication, teamwork and organisation.

Another particularly valuable aspect of the Barclays Money Skills ‘Weeks’ programme is the opportunity for colleges to request Barclays volunteers to attend and deliver activities with their students.

Having contact with employers at school has been evidenced to result in students going on to earn an on average 4.5% wage premium compared to students from schools with no contact, indicating the value of bringing employers and young people together.

Volunteers can offer students insight and greater awareness of the opportunities available in the industry, as well as an understanding of the culture and expectations of the workplace.

If your college isn’t yet registered for Barclays Money Skills ‘weeks’ there is still time to participate in the 2014 programme, between February and the end of April.

Sylvia Perrins is Chief Executive of the National Skills Academy for Financial Services

For more information about our financial education programmes including Barclays Money Skills ‘weeks’ call the National Skills Academy for Financial Services on 0845 618 2353 or visit

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