Becoming Employable

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I am often asked what is meant by the term ‘employability skills’. Many people are still of the opinion that the term only defines being able to write a strong CV or successfully navigate an interview. As important as those things are, we’re still just talking about the nuts and bolts. At the heart of employability lie a set of skills, behaviours and personal attributes that enable us to be successful not just in employment but in life.

Soft skills are developed over time rather than from a short-term intervention such as a class or training course. These skills are not developed purely in a working environment either; they will grow from taking part in academic study, hobbies or sporting activities. Not only that but soft skills can be readily transferred from one role or environment to another. But, in my experience, we’re not always very good at recognising the value of soft skills. And it’s not just me; In July 2015 the Backing Soft Skills campaign published a report into the value of soft skills to the UK economy. One of the key findings was; ‘UK employees say they struggle to sell their soft skills. 1 in 5 would not feel confident describing their soft skills to an employer and more than half (54%) have never included soft skills on their CV’.

Fast forward a little more to July 2018 and we have more evidence, this time from Barclays who conducted survey and testing of over 10,000 16-65-year-olds, 600 employers and 500 educators from across the UK. According to their findings, nearly 60% of UK over 16’s are failing to demonstrate all the core employability skills needed for the future world of work: proactivity, adaptability, leadership, creativity, resilience, communication and problem-solving.

The CBI/Pearson Education & Skills report, published in November 2018, highlighted the following;

Over two-thirds of employers (70%), rate Literacy and Numeracy skills as one of their three most important considerations when recruiting school and college leavers, but almost half (45%) of businesses ranked aptitude and readiness for work as the single most important factor.

Broader skills such as resilience, communication and problem-solving are also highly important when recruiting, with over half (60%) rating these skills as among their top three priorities.

For employers, formal qualifications are valuable indicators of application, achievement and ability. But businesses are clear that key drivers of success for young people in their working lives are attitudes and attributes such as resilience, enthusiasm, creativity and communication skills. Year after year, our survey results show how important young people’s aptitude and readiness for work is in determining their job prospects and future success.

Around four in ten (43%) rate readiness for work as one of their three most important considerations. Indeed, it ranks as the single most important factor for almost half (45%) of businesses when recruiting school and college leavers.
According to new research by the University of Law Business School, the top ten skills sought by employers are:
“1. Communication skills – (90%)
2. Relationship building – (83%)
3. Organisation skills – (63%), Work well under pressure – (63%)
4. Results driven – (60%)
5. Time management – (57%)
6. Team player – (50%)
7. Analytical skills – (47%), Attention to detail – (47%), People skills – (47%), Self-motivated – (47%)
8. Management skills (43%), leadership skills (43%)
9. IT skills (40%), Negotiating skills (40%)
10. Problem-solving (37%)
The research also showed the skills and requirements that appear less frequently in job specifications. Perhaps surprisingly, “past experience” was the keyword that appeared in the least amount of job specifications (3%) – encouraging for those just starting out on the career ladder or concerned about a lack of experience.”

While the specifics might vary from article to article, all the evidence clearly points to the value of so-called soft skills. It is important to reflect on your experiences and find examples that show these skills being developed;

  • Making a presentation in front of your class.
  • Representing the College at an Open Evening and assisting visitors.
  • Writing persuasive essays, proposals, etc.
  • Have you ever been part of a sports team, club or society?
  • Have you ever led a sports team, club or society?

 These things matter and are an essential part of what it means to be employable.