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Unemployment falls… but there’s still room for improvement

David Grailey is chief executive of NCFE, the national awarding organisation

It’s encouraging to see that the latest reports from the Office for National Statistics have revealed a fall in unemployment, suggesting that Britain’s economy may be on the slow road to recovery. This positive development has surprised economists who’ve been impressed with the resilience of the labour market at such a challenging time.

The UK jobless rate now stands at 7.9% compared with 10.5% in the EU – its lowest rate since June 2011 when we hit a record high. It’s especially cheering to note that the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work has also fallen and stands below a million, taking youth unemployment down to 20.5% from 21.8%.

However despite these positive developments, there are still some areas of concern, particularly around long-term joblessness and the growth in part-time, freelance and temporary work (as opposed to sustained full-time employment).

There’s clearly still a lot more than can be done in terms of supporting the unemployed back to work and helping young people take their first tentative steps on the career ladder. It’s about addressing the potential disconnect between colleges and employers, engaging with both young people and adults and ensuring that they’re prepared to face the tough world of job applications.

At NCFE, we’ve collaborated with recruitment specialists REED in Partnership to offer organisations a flexible solution to optimise their learner destination outcomes. The offer includes a suite of Job Search and Interview Skills qualifications which equip learners with the right skills and mindset to secure the job.

The REED NCFE Partnership also offers colleges a bespoke programme of student and employer engagement, employment consultation, job brokerage, careers advice and work experience. This programme provides students with access to the kinds of ‘hidden jobs’ which are rarely publicly advertised and ensures they receive tailored training in the skills they need to win these jobs.

Since the launch of the Partnership in January at Bournemouth and Poole College, the service has had an average of 200 live vacancies each month, placing a huge number of students in employment at the end of their college courses. We hope and expect the same success for the other colleges who’ve recently come on board, including NESCOT, Oxford & Cherwell Valley, Harlow, Milton Keynes and Barnet & Southgate.

Overall, I believe that through employability education, job seekers can learn how to identify vacancies, promote themselves, present themselves at interview and maximise their chance of success. In a tough labour market where jobs are scarce, thorough preparation can truly help people to stand out from the crowd and make the most of opportunities that come their way.

David Grailey is chief executive of NCFE, the training provider

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