From education to employment

Mind the Gap – engaging employers from sectors with skills gaps

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) analysts have recently suggested that UK nations have the biggest skills gaps between young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) and those in work. In March Working Knowledge hosted a high-level forum for FE staff Opening Doors to employment with Study Programmes, and as part of it we engaged employers from sectors with skills gaps to present their view of FE learners and whether their skills gaps were being addressed.

Speaking on the issue was Ben Heald, CEO of Sift Media, a media and digital media agency. Ian Rummels, Director of PES Consulting, a business consultancy and Stephen Barthorpe, Head of Community Engagement at facilities management company Mitie. They presented their view to the forum delegates, senior FE leaders from colleges nationwide.

Ben Heald made the point that employers are often more interested in the skills young people bring from jobs or past projects they have done, as well as their general attitude, as opposed to their academic history. Stephen Barthorpe agreed and felt that employability skills are often lacking due to students not having part time jobs or volunteering experience.

Ian Rummels explained that in his experience, in order to gain work, young people need to have the soft skills such as good attitude, passion, willingness to learn and show that they are grateful for the opportunity to work, and have an employer believe in them. Ben Heald agreed that young people must be keen, committed, ready to work hard, prepared to learn and possess good communication skills in order to secure employment. Stephen Barthorpe stressed that it is essential colleges make the learning experience relevant to employability skills so that learners leave with the necessary skills to gain employment.

With regards to the benefits young people bring to business Ben explained that from an employers perspective he thinks it’s good to take on young people as it widens the age boundaries of the staff and introduces a new perspective and new ideas. Ian finds that apprentices have a positive impact on his business as taking on an apprentice is a great way of taking on young talent and effectively giving them a ‘very long job interview’. It can also be a cheaper recruitment method.

All three of these employers have gone on to employ young people following an introduction to 16-19 year old sector at a Working Knowledge event.

For more information about this theme, or the others that were discussed at the forum please go to our website, or join the discussion on our LinkedIn group.

James Lott is the managing director of Working Knowledge, a social enterprise that has over 8 years experience of partnering with the Further and Higher Education sectors to support the education of full time learners through employer engagement via a range of value-added work experience, enterprise and employability services

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