A survey by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) has declared that 80% of British school leavers “lack essential business skills” and need “significant training” before they can fit into the workplace. The survey highlighted that young people lacked people and business skills, while technical skills were also deemed to be lacking. This figure is up from 75% last year, but does it demonstrate that young people are not being made work-ready? And what can you do to make sure you are?
The fact is that the requirements placed on young people at school and college are different from those you will face in the workplace, and while many schools and colleges do their best to try and prepare students for employment there is no substitute for actually getting involved.
Since different professions require different skills and responsibilities there is always going to be a need to fine-tune any work skills to your chosen career path, but you can certainly gain more general, essential workplace skills through experience.
At the most obvious, a weekend or evening job will offer you genuine workplace experience where you can brush up on your people and business skills as well as gaining an insight into how employment works. This includes being able to take responsibility for your own work without being constantly monitored and pushed to get on with it.
Being able to deal with different people, whether as customers, clients or colleagues is another important part of work and is something that gets easier with experience as you build confidence - not just in what you are doing - but also in yourself.
You don’t need to find a role in your dream job or with an employer you want to spend your career with, as you can learn many basic workplace skills anywhere, while also improving your CV and showing employers that you are willing to work. Of course, if you can manage to land a role with your dream employer then you can also gain directly relevant skills and experience while also doing a little networking!
Even non-work related activities can help you get ready for work – such as after-school clubs and other activities that can help to build your confidence around others. However, there are some things highlighted by CIMA’s survey of 4,000 finance professionals that need to be addressed in school.
Basic numeracy and literacy has been highlighted as a problem area, so if you know you are weaker in these areas you may need to speak with your teachers to see what they can do to help. These skills are often expected by employers. Unfortunately, some are saying that frequent changes to the education system has meant that young people are being let down when it comes to having these basic skills. If this is you, then you may need to take steps to fix the situation on your own initiative, or risk being bypassed by employers who will look to someone who has these skills instead.
That said, businesses are doing more to help get young people ready for work by going into schools and explaining what they need and expect, as well as offering routes into work such as school-leaver programmes and apprenticeships which allow young people the chance to learn on the job, get paid, and maybe gain a qualification too.
The workplace can be a high-pressure environment where you will be expected to be able to keep up and do your job. Being able to cope with this pressure and expectation is part of being a good employee, but with the right attitude and some decent training there is no reason for you not to get to grips with it all.
If you have no experience of work, then you are likely to be at a disadvantage (at least for a while) when you first step into a job. Finding some part-time work or maybe even volunteering in your spare time can help improve not just your skills but your workplace confidence. School and college can only do so much to make you work-ready, so perhaps it is time for you to take the initiative and put yourself ahead of the 80%?