Employability Skills The Views Of Young People And Employers

The CASCAID Careers Report 2016 is released and provides a valuable insight into the careers that young people are exploring. It also informs us about those employability skills that young people are confident that they have and those that they lack confidence in.

We take a look at which skills young people identify as in need of development and compare these with what employers say about skills gaps that exist.

The skills that young people believe they need to improve include:

Using maths

Explaining things

Recording and storing important information

Paying attention to detail

Dealing with people in difficult situations

Planning events or actions in advance

Solving problems


Understanding and analysing written information

Using a computer

The skills that employers want

First conducted in 2011 the UKCES Employer’s Survey Report 2015 is considered to be the definitive source of intelligence on the skills challenges employers across the UK are facing. The survey shows that as far as employers are concerned the following skills need improving:

The ability to manage your own time and to prioritise your workload

Customer handling

Team working

Managing your own feelings and those of others

Persuading and influencing

Motivating others


Training others

Setting objectives

Giving presentations and making speeches.

The skills that employers say are difficult to find in employees include:

Specialist skills (these will vary according to the job role and industry)

Complex problem solving skills

Numerical and statistical skills

Skills in reading and understanding reports

Skills is writing reports

Basic numeracy skills

Computer literacy and digital skills

Foreign language skills

How do the views of employers and the views of young people compare when it comes to skills?

Young people said that they need to improve their skills in:

Using maths

Agreement - employers say that they struggle to find people with basic numeracy skills and with complex numerical and statistical skills.

Explaining things

Agreement - employers say that they find it difficult to obtain applicants who can give written instructions and write reports.

Recording and storing important information

Not in agreement - this skill isn’t specifically mentioned in the UKCES employer’s report

Paying attention to detail

Not in agreement - again, paying attention to detail may well be important, especially for certain job roles, but it doesn’t feature in the employer’s report.

Dealing with people in difficult situations

Agreement - the art of dealing with people fits with the personal skill of managing your own feelings and handling of others, identified by employers as a skill that needs improving.

Planning events or actions in advance

Agreement - the ability to manage your own time and prioritise tasks was top of the list of skills that employers felt needed improving.

Solving problems

Agreement - employers identified complex problem solving skills as the second most difficult skill to obtain in applicants.

Reading, understanding and analysing written information

Agreement - reading and understanding instructions and reports featured on the list of skills that employers struggled to find in employees.

Using a computer

Agreement - computer literacy and basic IT skills were placed sixth on the employer’s list of skills that they find difficult to obtain from applicants.

Do employers and young people agree about skills?

There is certainly some agreement between the skills that young people feel they could improve upon and those that employers identify as lacking in applicants. Where are the differences in perceptions though?

What skills do employers want that young people did not identify?

Young people did not identify the following skills for improvement, all of which appeared on the employer’s lists.

Customer handling skills

Managing and motivating others

Persuading and influencing others

Setting objectives for others

Instructing and training others

Sales skills

Making speeches and giving presentations

Communicating in a foreign language

Adapting to new equipment or materials

Why is there a mismatch between the skills identified by young people and those identified by employers?

It could be that young people have not identified these skills because coincidentally these are skills which are associated with job roles that they are not interested it, it could be because they do not see these skills as important or it could be because they already feel that they have these skills in abundance.

The CASCAID report indicates that the skills that young people are most confident with are:


Using a computer

Listening to other people

Thinking of new ideas and using their imagination

Observing things

Caring for people

Using their hands in a skilful way

Paying attention to detail

Persuading people

Giving advice

Persuading people is the only skill identified which matches those wanted by employers. It could be that some skills such as managing and motivating others, setting objectives for others and instructing and training others are not identified by young people simply because they do not expect to have a role where they do this (at least not for a while) and the employer’s survey covers skill shortages in broader terms than young employees alone. Leaving this aside, it may be worth picking up on two skills identified as lacking by employers which are of particular importance; making speeches and giving presentations and adapting to new equipment or materials.

Making speeches and giving presentations

Even if you are not planning on working full time for a while (perhaps you are going to university), chances are you will need to become at least comfortable with presenting to others. It’s common in the work place and presentations are increasingly used in universities as a method of assessing students so it’s surprising that this is missing from the list provided by young people.

Adapting to new equipment and materials

I would extend this to include adapting to new ways of working as well. Learnability is an increasingly important skill because many of the jobs of the future don’t exist yet and new technologies persistently change the way that we work.

Learnability is the desire and the capability to develop new in demand skills quickly in order to meet the demands of a changing employability landscape and marketplace.

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