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CIPD/KPMG Survey Shows Communication Skills, Work Ethic And Personality Are Top Requirements

August 21 2006 - The latest CIPD/KPMG quarterly Labour Market Outlook, a survey of over 1400 UK employers, shows that while literacy and numeracy are key skills looked for when recruiting from the current crop of school leavers, the attributes that top the list are communication skills, work ethic and personality. The report also reveals that although 52 per cent of employers report no difference in the performance of male and female school leavers at work, over one-third (36 per cent) believe that girls outperform boys, compared with just 3 per cent who find the reverse is true.

Rebecca Clarke, organization and resourcing adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said:

"It has become almost an annual ritual to focus on the literacy and numeracy of school leavers - but our research shows employers want more focus on communication, interpersonal skills and developing a work ethic.

These findings suggest that the education system might help close the "employability gap" by seeking to introduce more oral-based tests and more work experience schemes. Such changes may benefit boys in particular who are seen as having weaker communication skills - which may explain why employers are more likely to rate girls more highly than boys at work after leaving school.

School leavers themselves also need to take note that they are entering a competitive labour market. With a ready supply of willing and able workers throughout the EU, more people continuing or returning to work beyond the traditional retirement age, and government efforts to encourage long-term incapacity benefit claimants to return to work, school leavers who don't demonstrate a desire to work and the basic communication skills to thrive in the modern workplace, risk finding it hard to secure work."

Responses given by employers in the survey include:

Key attributes looked for in school leaver recruits

  • communication skills (40 per cent ranked this in their top three)
  • work ethic (39 per cent)
  • personality (32 per cent)
  • literacy (26 per cent)
  • numeracy (22 per cent)
  • formal qualifications (25 per cent).

Change in the quality of school leavers during the past five years

  • no change (64 per cent)
  • quality deteriorated (26 per cent) - e.g. listening skills, numeracy, and attitude to work
  • quality improved (10 per cent) - e.g. better qualifications; more mature attitude to work.

What education might do to improve the employability of school leavers

  • improved interpersonal skills (50 per cent ranked this in their top three)
  • greater efforts to encourage young people to take responsibility (40 per cent)
  • improvements in communication skills (38 per cent)
  • better discipline (32 per cent)
  • literacy (28 per cent)
  • numeracy (22 per cent)
  • IT skills (19 per cent).

Among those employers that hire school leavers, the most popular initiatives to help them make the transition into work are on-the-job training (cited by 86 per cent) and induction courses (83 per cent). Just under half of those surveyed (47 per cent) offer apprenticeships. Around four in ten employers provide coaching and mentoring to school leavers while one in five provides training in literacy and numeracy.

Sara Barraclough, assistant director, education advisory, KPMG comments:

"Overall, this survey re-emphasizes the need for employers to work closely together with schools, local and central government to develop the soft, as well as the hard skills, school leavers need for the world of work. We, like many businesses, are involved in supporting numeracy and literacy in local schools but all employers need to think on how they can promote greater experience and knowledge of the workplace and how we can help develop a real sense of responsibility, integrity, teamwork and pride essential for a motivated and effective workforce. Further involvement in school activities, work shadowing, and mentoring are all ways in which we can work together to help our future workforce have the best chance of gaining employment."

Bill Rammell MP, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education said:

"This year's exam results have shown that today's students are reaping the rewards from hard work at school. But those now entering the labour market need to recognize that this is not the end of the hard work. Today's employers need a wide range of skills. Students, schools and employers need to work together to ensure that school leavers are ready for work. And the students themselves need to be prepared to keep engaging in lifelong learning to keep their skills up to date and attractive to employers."


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