What skills do employers most value in our young people?
Published: 08 Feb 2019
The results of a major research project on the skills employers most value in young people are being circulated to the county’s secondary schools this week to help improve work readiness and careers guidance.
The Hertfordshire Employers’ Skills Framework Survey (HESF) is a research study by University of Hertfordshire Business School, commissioned by Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Hertfordshire County Council (via YC Hertfordshire).
The study aims to set out the skills employers look for in young people, aged 16-24, across key sectors within the county. The results have been used to produce the Hertfordshire Skills Framework, which is being sent out to Hertfordshire’s 148 secondary schools this week.
The findings highlight the importance that employers from a range of sectors place on the 12 skills identified within the framework, and their perceptions of the ‘work readiness’ of school, college, other education and university leavers.
The 12 skills are grouped under two main headings: ‘people and personal’ and ‘technical and practical’. ‘People and personal’ skills include the ability to perform the job and time management; persuading and influencing others; managing and motivating other staff (team-working) and setting objectives and planning resources. With regard to ‘technical and practical’ skills, employers highlighted a lack of knowledge needed to perform the role; inability to solve complex problems and the lack of numerical and statistical skills.
Hertfordshire employers were then asked to categorise the knowledge, skills and experiences by ‘essential’, ‘valuable to the business’ and ‘desirable for the role’, ranking each one by their importance. In nearly all the sectors, ‘people and personal’ skills ranked in the top three, with the two most important skills identified as motivation and ambition, and respect and good manners. The right attitude was seen to be more important that some of the ‘technical and practical’ skills often regarded as essential.
The key overall findings were:
‘People and personal’ skills around time and task management, working well in teams and respect and good manners were below expectations, especially in young people.
‘Technical and practical’ skills around overall business and customer awareness, complex analytical skills and adaptability were especially lacking in those young people going for management and professional occupations.
In all, over 60% of the Hertfordshire employers surveyed highlighted that ‘technical and practical’ skills gaps in young people significantly impact on their ability to perform the job role. Employers also repeatedly fed back to schools, colleges and universities that leavers are still transitioning into the workplace without some of the key ‘people and personal’ and ‘technical and practical’ skills required to make them work ready.
Every employer approached also expressed the vital role that work experience plays in helping young people transition from education into work.
Mark Bretton, Chair, Hertfordshire LEP, said: “This framework looks beyond traditional measures of academic success to focus on the development of skills that Hertfordshire employers have told us they look for. This is vital if we want to improve the long term employment chances of our young people.
“Our schools, training providers and colleges have a responsibility both to nurture a lifelong love of learning and help prepare our young people to enter and succeed in the workplace. The Hertfordshire Skills Framework can be used by teachers, education providers, students, employers and all those who have a vested interest in ensuring that our young people fulfil their potential.”
Cllr David Williams, Leader, Hertfordshire County Council, said: “The employability of our young people is vital to our future prosperity. In the feedback from schools on the survey findings, we learnt that not enough emphasis was given to the soft or cognitive skills needed to thrive in the workplace. This framework clearly roots employability to a set of learned behaviours that can help shape our young people and set them on the path to productive employment.
“I am delighted to endorse this research which speaks directly to our schools, colleges and training providers and considers how the results of this survey can be directly applied to improve our young people’s employment prospects.”
Cllr Terry Douris, Hertfordshire County Council Executive Member responsible for Education, Libraries and Localism including the Hertfordshire Skills Strategy, said: “The Skills Framework is an important new resource for Hertfordshire’s young people, their parents and schools in preparing for the transition from education into employment.
“We know that Hertfordshire employers have high expectations when recruiting young people straight from education and they welcome the great standards achieved by our schools and colleges. Employers also need their staff to have skills not always measured in academic achievement, for example: good communication skills, a positive attitude and the determination to succeed. However, bosses are also telling us that from time to time they are concerned about the level of these skills in some young people.
“As Executive Member responsible for Education, Libraries and Localism including the Hertfordshire Skills Strategy, I am passionate that our young people get the support and information needed to make a successful move from education to the world of work.”
A total of 120 Hertfordshire employers took part in the survey spanning all sizes of businesses and the seven key sectors within Hertfordshire. This includes advanced engineering & manufacturing; construction and the built environment; wholesale and retail; information and communication technology; financial & professional services; life sciences & pharmaceuticals and art and recreation services.
The framework is closely aligned to Theme 1 of the Hertfordshire Skills Strategy to 2020, which focuses on developing the future workforce to safeguard the county’s economic growth and prosperity. Both the framework and strategy were presented to over 80 key stakeholders from a broad range of organisations at the Hertfordshire Skills Summit prior to their launch.
The Hertfordshire Skills Framework and Hertfordshire Skills Strategy to 2020 can be viewed here: www.hertfordshirelep.co.uk. A resource pack is also available to help schools incorporate the framework into their programmes and curriculum. Printed copies of the Skills Framework and Executive Summary are available on request.