David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body

Picture the scene: you’re an employer with a vacancy, let’s say an entry-level position. You’ve done everything correctly – advertised in all the right places and picked out the best-on-paper candidates.

Yet you emerge from days of back-to-back interviews, feeling thoroughly underwhelmed with the lack work-readiness displayed by the succession of hopefuls. The raw talent may be there but, if you need someone to hit the ground running, there’s every chance that you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Or, alternatively, you may find that your business is actually not as competitive as it could be because staff are lacking basic skills.

I’m not talking from any recent personal experience, but it’s something that a lot of employers go through and both scenarios point to one thing. We are told that the UK is, at some levels, not only facing a shortage of basic skills such as numeracy and literacy, but that people are leaving school with a lack of work-readiness.

The idea has been supported by recent reports that revealed that one in five current GCSE students will be unemployed at the age of 21, yet a glance at the recruitment pages of any newspaper or website reveals there are still jobs out there, despite the recession, so surely any employers with jobs should be inundated with applications from top-quality prospective candidates?

Something doesn’t add up. Somewhere, between leaving school or college, young people are clearly not all being given the support and guidance they need to ensure they have even a basic grasp of what is expected of them when they work in an office.

Work experience is all well and good, but I wonder how many people genuinely emerge from their fortnight’s placement with a true grasp of what it’s like to be at work.

Yes, there is a responsibility on employers to train and develop their staff – to polish the diamond – but in these troubled times, that is not a luxury that a lot of employers can afford to take on.

What’s needed is a way of bridging the gap between education and the start of work – the education and training sector must rise to the challenge and help give employers more of what they’re looking for – generally better, work ready candidates, regardless of the level at which they are recruiting.

It is in response to this demand that NCFE launched has launched the Get Set For Work campaign, aimed at helping give people the right sort of specifically-developed training to ensure they have the skills and knowledge required to enter the job market, gain employment and improve their career prospects.

We want learners to pick up the essential numeracy, literacy, ICT and personal skills required by employers so that nothing is hindering either these young candidates’ chances of finding work, or the general economic recovery.

We are launching a new suite of qualifications that meet the needs of employers and learners and can be delivered as part of Entry to Employment, Skills for Life and Employer-Responsive packages. The aim is to ensure the current generation of jobseekers – and those generations to come – are given appropriate skills and qualifications that will stand them in good stead.

What we need to see is an increase in people’s employability at a core level – getting people set for work covers everything from CV writing, interview techniques, dealing with conflict, team working health and safety, personal development, and so much more.

Until now, in this respect, some people believe that the education system has failed people. NCFE is aiming to do its bit by getting people the skills, the confidence and the awareness to help them not only make a make a success of their first few days, weeks and months at work, but also to ensure they have the grounding to forge long and successful careers.

David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body


Read other FE News articles by David Grailey:

Sex, drugs and citizenship


NCFE Chief David Grailey on how to help the young, free and unemployed

FE needs to encourage more adults into learning, says NCFE's David Grailey


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