From education to employment

Colleges leavers more “work ready” says skills survey

College leavers are considered more ready for work than those leaving school at the same age, according to a survey of more than 90,000 employers.

The research, from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), also found the number of job vacancies in England has returned to pre-recession levels.

However, skills shortage vacancies – where businesses are unable to find recruits with the skills required, are growing twice as fast and now account for more than one in five of all job openings.

UKCES commissioner Douglas McCormick, who is also a managing director of UK rail business Atkins, said: “Whilst the rise in the number of vacancies is a good sign that the economy is recovering, there’s a real possibility that businesses might not be able to make the most of the upturn because they don’t have the right people.

“This shows that businesses need to start thinking about planning their talent pipeline now – not waiting until they are unable to fulfil contracts because of a lack of skilled staff.

“Worryingly, these figures show that the percentage of staff in the UK receiving training from their employer hasn’t changed significantly for a decade. There are also signs that some employers might be trying to solve their skills problems by choosing to recruit highly-skilled and qualified staff to do very basic jobs. Under-using people’s skills like this risks a bored and demotivated workforce. By providing high-quality and job-specific training, businesses can make sure they have the skilled workforce they need, as well as inspiring loyalty and keeping their staff motivated.”

The employers surveyed between March and July 2013 reported a total of 559,600 job vacancies in England, which is up 45% per cent from 2009. But skills shortage vacancies nearly doubled over the same period, increasing from 63,100 to 124,800.

Michele Sutton, president of the Association of Colleges, said: “The information that employers are reporting an increase in vacancies due to skills shortages is a real concern. It is proof that more vocational education is needed – whether alone or alongside academic qualifications – in order to bridge the gap. Allowing more young people to take vocational qualifications from the age of 14, which the Government has allowed for, and providing them with high-quality advice about potential jobs, qualifications and courses, are essential.

“It is a concern that the percentage of staff receiving training from their employer hasn’t increased in the last decade. Colleges work with their local business communities to help ensure employees can undertake training to update their skills to keep pace with latest developments. Additionally, colleges already play a key role in working closely with employers in their area to make sure they are providing young people with the right skills for the local jobs market, often through apprenticeships.”

Natalie Thornhill


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