From education to employment

Report Shows Applicants for Posts Still Lacking Skills Needed

A study set up to establish what employers are seeking in their applicants by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has highlighted a number of alarming areas both for employers and work ““ seekers.

Amongst the findings, the report concludes somewhat surprisingly that qualifications are still not necessarily at the very top of a recruiter’s agenda when considering an applicant, but that skills do need to be developed for the pool of applicants to meet the demands of employers. In this first examination of the report, FE News takes a look at the skills agenda according to the DWP.

Skills in Applicants

The report states its mission to be that it “aims to examine what employers seek when recruiting, and the extent to which government provision meets their needs. The focus is on unemployed and inactive adults aged between 16 and State Pension Age (SPA).” The SPA is currently 60 for women and 65 for men, but there is a debate raging currently over the proposed raising of the SPA to 67 in an attempt to relieve the burden on state funds caused by the demographic shift in an aging population. Another subsidiary aim of the report is to examine the possibility that employers have different requirements from applicants depending on their age.

The report makes for grim reading for those involved in improving the skills level of the workforce. According to the research, 20% of reported vacancies could not be filled due to a lack of applicants with the necessary skills. For the unemployed seeking to return to work, it seems that recruitment opportunities are only likely to improve where workforce development and advancement exists, to access lower or less specifically skilled vacancies. The report also suggests that employers could do more to improve the skills of their workers “in house”.

There has been a great deal spoken of the need for any training and education policy enacted by the Government to take into account the regional variations of different areas of the country. The report supports this position, stating that employers” requirements vary according to the industry concerned and the area within which they are based.

Soft Skills

One recurring theme within the body of this document is the feeling that so ““ called “soft skills” ““ generally meaning communication and / or interpersonal skills ““ are even more important than extensive sets of qualifications. The report states: “Overall, employers are less demanding of technical skills, considering them trainable, if candidates exhibit employability and soft skills, and positive attributes.” Employers are also allegedly keen to have applicants who demonstrate a motivated approach through what the report describes as “positive mannerisms”, a willingness to learn and a flexible approach to problem solving.

The findings demonstrate that qualifications are often deemed less relevant ““ although, obviously there are certain sections of industry (such as the Healthcare and Security Sectors) that rely on qualifications to guarantee the quality and training levels of their employees. Those sectors that do rely on qualifications often do so due to legislative guidance that forces their hand in this matter. Generally, employers would seem to prefer a positive person with fewer qualifications ahead of a negative one with a long list of qualifications, feeling that the training can be accomplished later more easily than changing the negative leopard’s spots.

Jethro Marsh

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