Education Providers Must Put Employability at Heart of Everything They Do

According to the Government’s skills policy watchdog, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), publicly-funded education and training must help recession-proof learners by making them more employable.

UKCES’s The Employability Challenge report finds that although some schools, colleges, universities and training providers prepare their students well for the workplace, too many do not and employers have to spend time and money on new recruits to give them everyday skills, such as how to take a telephone message or write a report.  

The report challenges publicly-funded providers of education and training to put employability at the heart of everything they do.  It also challenges Government and funding bodies to press providers to give the development of employability skills more priority.

After examining the approaches and experience of over 200 different learning providers, it identifies 6 key features which distinguish the most successful programmes.

The Commission found the best programmes are:

  • based on real workplace practice – ideally with real employer involvement or the involvement of people from outside the learning environment;
  • practical and applied in nature – based around genuine work-place experiences or high quality work simulations, with learners progressing by learning through doing things well – or wrongly;
  • personalised – to reflect individual needs, strengths and weaknesses and preferred learning styles;
  • serious and disciplined - incorporating clear feedback and real consequences for success or failure, just as in the workplace;
  • reflective – providing continuing opportunities for individuals to reflect upon their own, and each other’s, actions and learn from them;
  • underpinned by a whole institution commitment to employability – with strong leadership and resources, including extra investment in staff development and capability, and even whole institutional change.

 Chris Humphries, Chief Executive of the UK Commission said:

“Despite decades of discussions around – and definitions of – employability skills, employers seem to be more worried than ever that many job candidates simply don’t have these skills.

“Employers accept that they have shared responsibility to provide their employees with specialist and technical skills, and they’re happy to do this. What they’re not happy about is having to teach people fresh out of education or training how to write reports in English, rather than text-speak, or how to turn up for work on time.

“In this recession, both qualifications and employability skills will be very important. Whilst qualifications are often essential and may be the only way you can get some jobs,  they can only get you onto the long-list.  What finally convinces an employer isn’t just the piece of paper; it’s the individual’s ability to demonstrate the right attitudes, initiative and behaviours that will decide who actually gets the job.”

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