From education to employment

Employable skills hit hardest by lockdown according to UK students

New research from leading data analytics company Tableau shows that pupils aged 16-18 feel the pandemic has impacted their workplace skills more than their academic ones and that school has not helped to prepare them for a job. They say a significant proportion of the skills employers are looking for are learnt outside of school and want to see schools work more closely with businesses so they can gain employable skills.

 Key findings from the research include:

  • Over half (54%) of pupils shared that the pandemic has impacted their skills-based learning such as data analysis more than it impacted their academic learning
  • 80% of pupils want schools to work more closely with businesses to make education more relevant to employers
  • Less than half (47%) of pupils aged 16-18 believe that their school education has prepared them for a job
  • With digital skills top of what employers are looking for, worryingly, nearly one in two pupils (46%) say they have no experience learning data analysis at school
  • Almost two fifths (38%) are unaware of the key skills employers look for
  • A gender gap persists in digital skills confidence.Only 36% of female pupils are confident in their programming skills, 44% iin their data analysis skills and 66 % in foundational digital skills (Powerpoint, Word, emails etc) in comparison to 58% of male pupils for programming, 55% for data analysis and 75% for foundational skills
  • While pupils say foundational digital skills they have are mostly learnt in school (75%), one third (34%) say the computer programming skills they have were learnt somewhere else.  

The research follows the recent Quantifying the UK Data Skills Gap report (2021) by GOV.UK (DCMS) that found digital skills are now an essential entry requirement for two thirds of UK jobs.

Esme Stead, a 16 year-old pupil from Manchester says that as a result of the pandemic, a lot of the additional sessions planned by her school to help students gain extra skills have also been cancelled, leaving Esmé concerned that when she comes to apply for jobs her CV will not have the skills to differentiate her from other candidates. Her experience is typical and she wants the government to mandate dedicated time in schools for pupils in years 9 and above to learn core skills employers want.

Employability hit hardest by lockdown according to UK students 

  • More than half (54%) of UK pupils aged 16-18 think the pandemic caused greater disruption to their skills-based learning – essential for work – than their academic learning 
  • Less than half (47%) believe their school education has prepared them for a job 
  • More than two in five (44%) planning to pursue an apprenticeship or job feel they don’t have many skills to make them stand out and less than half (46%) know how to obtain such skills

More than half (54%) of UK pupils aged 16-18 believe the COVID-19 pandemic caused greater disruption to their employable skills-based learning – such as data analysis and communication skills – than to their learning of academic subjects, leaving them less prepared to enter the workforce, according to a new survey from Tableau, the world’s leading analytics platform (NYSE: CRM). 

The nationwide research, which explored the impact of lockdown on the education of pupils in years’ 10-13, also found that less than half (47%) of students feel that their school education has prepared them for the world of work, while almost two fifths (38%) are unaware of the key skills sought after by employers.

A Royal Society report during lockdown suggested that school time lost because of the pandemic could harm the UK economy for the next 65 years due to its negative impact on the future skills of the workforce.

Discussing the results in relation to the UK’s data skills gap, Professor Pat Tissington, Academic Director of Employability and Skills at University of Warwick said: “To speed up the UK’s economic recovery, it is vital that educational institutions prepare pupils for the world of work and give greater focus to the skills that are becoming increasingly important for employers, such as data analysis.

“Data skills are relevant for a wide range of roles, yet the research from Tableau shows that almost half (47%) of students find the concept of data analysis a little scary. This precedes the pandemic; in the last two years almost half (46%) of UK businesses have struggled to recruit for roles that require data skills. More needs to be done to equip pupils with the digital skills they need in the workplace if the UK is to avoid a huge data skills gap.”

For UK employers, the need for digital skills has spread far beyond traditional IT job roles, with  two in three (68%) job postings outside the technology sector seeking data-literate candidates and many lower-skilled roles demanding basic data literacy skills. 

Meanwhile the lack of data-driven skills could have a severe impact on the UK economy – costing as much as £2billion annually.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Dan Pell, General Manager and Senior Vice President for EMEA at Tableau commented:

“Although lockdown disrupted skills learning, we know that there was already a problem with data skills education. This seriously limits career opportunities for young people right across the country, and those who aren’t able to demonstrate data skills will be at the back of the jobs queue. 

“We’re not just talking about skills for jobs in the tech industry here; we’re talking about skills used daily in almost every job – the confidence to handle and understand data. Building back better is a unique opportunity for a resetting of priorities when it comes to ensuring our children are best prepared for life beyond school.”

As well as feeling unprepared for work, the study also found that 80% of pupils would like schools to work more closely with businesses to make education more relevant to employers.  

Dan Pell added: “At Tableau, we know it’s not just the responsibility of schools and colleges to teach pupils the digital skills they need – but future employers too. For this reason, we have launched our free e-learning course for pupils in years 10-13, to help them learn the foundation data skills they need for the ever-evolving digital requirements of employers.”

The Tableau free e-learning course provides an introduction to data skills and is accessible from any device with an internet connection. Students who have completed the course can add it to job application forms and university and college applications.

Research methodology: The survey by Vitreous World, commissioned by Tableau, was conducted to gain insight into UK pupils and their understanding of employer wants and sentiment towards data analysis. The quantitative survey was conducted in May – June 2021, at a +/- 3.1% margin of error, and interviewed 1,005 students in the UK, with equal representation across years 10, 11, 12 and 13.

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