From education to employment

Learning to be employable

Kirstie Donnelly is UK managing director of training body City & Guilds Group

As anyone who has conducted a job interview can tell you, having a CV packed with academic achievements might get a candidate through the door, but it won’t necessarily get them the job. Coming across as perfect on paper is irrelevant if a candidate doesn’t have the right skills and personal attributes to be able to get the job done.

It doesn’t matter whether you have 10 A stars at GCSE or a first in accounting if you are a poor time-keeper, bad at communicating and give up at the first sign of difficulty then you are unlikely to get very far in your chosen career.

We all know that our education system is often accused of falling short in preparing young people for the world of work so it won’t come as a surprise to hear that employers continue to tell us that young people are simply not ready to enter the work place when they leave education.
So how do we address this? How do we, as educators, ensure that young people are ready for work and equipped with the key qualities they need to succeed long before they fill out their first application form?

Faced with that question, the City & Guilds Alliance commissioned Professor Bill Lucas and Dr. Janet Hanson to look into this in more depth. Their research piece ‘Learning to be Employable’ began by looking at the characteristics and habits young people need to develop whilst in education so they become second nature by the time they have their first day at work. They identified a combination of vital employability habits, such as ‘self-belief’, ‘perseverance’ and ‘creativity’, and transferable skills including communication, time-management and team work.

Most importantly, the research looked at how these habits can be nurtured in young people and highlighted the ability to teach employability skills in an FE setting. Contrary to past belief, these habits can be taught. The research concluded that we need joint support from educators, business and Government to increase the focus on employability within the education system. It is only through creating partnerships between colleges, training providers and employers that we will be able to develop best practice for teaching these skills and learn from successes and failures.

As a sector we must look beyond our own front door for best practice examples; perhaps to higher education, where employability is gaining a stronger focus and students are being provided with innovative opportunities to develop those skills employers value the most, either through their core curriculums or work based study. With many young people going straight from their college or training provider directly into the workplace this is every bit as relevant to the FE sector, if not more so.

Developing core employability skills is a key priority for City & Guilds, not only through the technical and professional courses we provide, but our commitment to working with industry, employers and Government to make developing these skills the norm. At City & Guilds we now have 137 new Technical Qualifications approved by the Department of Education across a range of subject areas with employability skills embedded in the curriculum. These courses have been designed alongside employers so that young people know they are learning the skills their prospective employers value the most. This must be the way that the education system in the UK continues to develop over the coming years if we want to do the best by our young people.

Ultimately, today employers are looking for far more than a checklist of academic achievements on a CV and we need to make sure, as educators, we understand what employers are looking for and that our teaching reflects this. In an increasingly global workplace, young people from the UK will be competing with others from all over the world, many from countries who already actively embed these types of skills in young learners throughout their education. To give our youngsters the very best life chances we all need to work together now, employers, the education sector and UK Government, to ensure they are equipped with all of the skills they need.

Kirstie Donnelly is UK managing director of training body City & Guilds Group

To read the full research report of ‘Learning to be Employable’ visit

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