Traditional models of education are failing young people according to a new report – and the reluctance of UK employers to invest in training is likely to prolong the skills crisis.
The report, Overlooked and left behind: improving the transition from school to work for the majority of young people, published by the House of Lords Select Committee, found that over half of young people don’t follow a traditional academic route to work, ie, University or an apprenticeship. The result is a skills mismatch that leaves employers unable to compete or meet their objectives. This coincides with a survey from Barclays which revealed that, on average, UK employers invest just £109 per person per year on digital skills training.
The causes of the talent mismatch
Several issues are affecting the current talent mismatch between employers and young people:-
- Formal education rates are rising but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the skills young people learn either equip them for a career, or meet the needs of UK businesses. The result is an unproductive workforce and, as we previously noted, employers fighting to recruit the best graduate talent in sectors such as tech and finance.
- Traditional models of education aren’t preparing young people for work. As indicated above, 53% of young people do not choose either University or apprenticeships as a route into work, which often results in them being employed in low skilled, low paid jobs with few career prospects. The report also highlights a £6,000 difference in funding per person per year between undergraduates and people studying Further Education courses.
- The ‘talent acquisition strategy’ of some UK employers relies on young recruits providing the digital skills their businesses need. The chances of success are limited - Indeed’s Labor Market Outlook 2016 found that nearly one third (32%) of millennials don’t possess work related computer skills. This problem is compounded as the Barclays report also found that around a third (34%) of employers struggle to upskill their employees.
Employers must be pro-active in order to combat the current skills shortages and prevent an ongoing crisis. Suggested strategies include the following:-
Early involvement with young people : UK businesses should get involved at an earlier stage of education. Identify the skills missing in your business and work with educational establishments to address those areas. Digital skills are crucial to all business sectors to retain a competitive edge, but education is struggling to keep up with rapid changes in technology. Employers have a key role to play here.
Create a culture of learning : Acknowledge the reality of what is happening and encourage learning in the workplace. Nearly half of UK employees don’t ask for additional training or choose to upskill according to Barclays. Those that do found that both their on the job performance and long-term career prospects improved significantly.
Include digital skills training for all employees : A report from Activia Training found that, while 90% of UK employers invest in corporate training, the UK ranks 22nd out of all EU nations. The training provided isn’t sufficient to bridge the skills gap and education isn’t keeping pace with digital skills. The onus is on employers to provide training and raise awareness.
Reduce bias in screening : Adjust screening filters to remove bias towards educational institutions and social backgrounds. A new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the UCL Institution of Education, Harvard University and the University of Cambridge found that graduates from wealthy backgrounds earn ‘significantly more’ than those from less advantaged backgrounds, even when degree qualifications were gained from similar Universities.
Understand where your best people come from : HR analytics will provide insight into the technical ability and soft skills of your best people, irrespective of their educational route into the workplace. Tech talent in particular doesn’t take the traditional approach to career development. Many high tech achievers claim to be partly ‘self-taught’, with ‘non-traditional’ qualifications.
Create hiring processes suitable for young people : Recruitment strategies designed to attract young people are ineffective and, in general, serve only to exacerbate the problem employers experience in attracting talent.
Overcoming resistance to learning and development
Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends Survey 2016 found that 80% of businesses rated learning as either' important' or 'very important' to their success and are keen to put employees in charge of their own learning experience. Millennials in particular, expect self-directed learning opportunities and will change jobs to find it, according to the survey. This is a message that must reach UK businesses.
Skills must also be developed more quickly. Addressing the dearth of digital skills will help businesses to attract and develop talent across a broader platform, leading to improved engagement and retention levels. The companies that adopt this approach will outperform their competitors as the skills shortage intensifies.
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