November 24, 2018

JOINT DIALOGUE: How are schools developing real employability skills?

Recent figures from both the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Department for Education have shown that, in the eyes of employers, the value of academic qualifications are decreasing, with businesses placing increased attention on the skills and competencies a young person possesses when looking to recruit. This report explores how schools are providing young people with opportunities to develop and exercise the vital skills and competencies that employers have called for in recent publications and surveys. Taken together, this will provide a powerful narrative about the specific skills that employers are looking for, where these are being developed, and how schools can give their pupils the best chance of putting them in place to maximise their employability. 

There have been numerous studies asking employers ‘what they really want’ in terms of workforce skills. These often show that employers express concerns about students’ skills level in certain areas, for instance, communications. But there are two challenges – the number of overlapping studies and the broad definition of these skills. This report takes a summative approach, aiming to come up with a more collective view of the skills gaps. It also takes this to a greater level of detail, looking at specific tasks and functions (for example, in the case of communication this could be about participating in meetings, making presentations, writing emails or drafting reports). 

Second, we wanted to understand specifically where young people are being supported to develop these skills. In some cases, this will be in the classroom (e.g. preparing a presentation as a team in a geography class) and in others it will be in ‘extra-curricular’ settings from after school clubs to work experience to scouts. 

The study draws upon existing literature assessing the skills and behaviours young people need to find work, and then thrive once there. The objective of this literature search was to create a collective view of the skills employers most commonly felt are needed in the workforce. The findings gathered from the literature formed the main discussion with professionals with first-hand experience of recruitment in large and small enterprises across private, public and third sectors. 


How are schools developing real employability skills?