Preparing young people for the world of work is a task that cannot be attempted without the world of work on board. By offering advice and guidance or by actually getting their hands dirty and offering provision for schools and young people to engage with, employers have a vital role to play. Which is why large-scale surveys on employer engagement with young people, their views on the skills capabilities of young people as potential employees and their participation in (supposedly) youth employment routes such as apprenticeships can offer valuable insights.
I’ve posted before to show that surveys of this kind can throw up a wide range of results and that the strategic goals of the organisation behind the survey should always be born in mind. Plenty of previous surveys with smaller survey cohorts have been critical of the level of skills held by school leavers entering the workplace while the survey that, traditionally, has shown results much more positive regarding skills levels has been the UKCES biennial Employer Perspectives survey. After the closure of UKCES, the responsibility of running this survey has transferred to the DfE with support from BEiS and DwP and the 2016 results were published this week. As ever, it’s fascinating in its picture of the UK skills map and how CEIAG is working within that. It’s also worth noting that the scale of the survey is impressive with over 18,000 employers across the UK interviewed.
Firstly, employers are still mainly pleased with the prepardness of young people for work but that, percentage rates have fallen slightly since 2014 but these figures are still much higher than the usual doom and gloom of other reports. It is also the case that, in the eyes of employers, older education leavers are still more preparded for the challenges of the workplace.
It is in other sections of the report that there are some startling headline figures (page 13):
The gap between employers expectation for young people to have work experience on their CV and those actually offering work experience placements is still huge. It’s also clear that the parts of the labour market most closely working with young people are those offering the most placements. As anybody who has run a work experience scheme in a school knows, placements are schools are easy to come by and colleagues will do their utmost to help while placements in more sort after industries are gold dust.
This picture of weak engagement is also apparent in the number of employers involved in work inspiration activities other than placements with, again, Construction a particularly poor performing area.
It’s clear that getting involved with such provision is proving more difficult for smaller firms and reasons why employers do not offer placements was collected
Being aware of these and the more positive reasons for offering placements (doing our bit, Corporate Social Responsibility policy, a recruitment strategy – page 70) and tailoring your approaches to employers when requesting placements should be a strategy for all schools and colleges.
Overall these figures are in stark contrast to the far more positive picture of employer engagement painted by employer bodies such as the CBI. Their assertion that “over 80% of employers work with schools” is, frankly, risible in comparison and shows the task ahead of the Careers & Enterprise company when scaling up their engagement initiatives.
Elsewhere in the Survey findings are other nuggets of interest. At the time of writing, Apprenticeship policy in the UK is in a state of flux as the official position is still to create 3 million apprenticeships over the course of the parliament but the ongoing changes to Levy and Standards policy are causing fluctuations in the numbers of vacancies being advertised.
The (slow) rise in the number of employers taking on apprentices is encouraging but this growth needs to accelerate if this route is to become a realistic competitor to Higher Education for young people. The future plans of employers (page 155), if enacted, would correlate to a rise of 21% of employers offering apprenticeships within the next 12 months but the Conclusions section states (from page 159) that a much greater engagement from employers with apprenticeships is needed to meet current targets.
Allied to this point is the data regarding the recruitment methods used by firms when hiring young people. The results are clear on the importance and of social capital and networks and the advantages gained by young people entering the job market with these benefits. Alongside more formal methods of applying for work, contacts can still be key and this evidence fits with published research in this area.
It shows that, despite the scale of the task ahead of them, the work of the CEC is vital and needed. In Conclusion the Survey states (page 160)
Developing forms of work experience and work inspiration that genuinely respond to employers’ needs to develop and access experienced new recruits continues to offer potential as a step in improving individuals’ entry to the labour market
and it is the solution to this issue that the CEC must find.