Employers are demanding more than literacy and numeracy skills in their workforce. Employability today means having a range of life skills and businesses are increasingly playing their part in making sure young people acquire them.
The delivery of “soft skills for hard times” – which include the ability to work in a team; a willingness to demonstrate initiative and original thought; self-discipline in starting and completing tasks to deadline; ICT ability; and problem-solving – is a prerequisite for economic growth.
Rather than complaining that school-leavers are not “oven-ready” for the workplace, forward-looking businesses can promote the skills they want to see in young people. They still want them to be grounded in the “three Rs”, but they can make them more rounded individuals by running bespoke programmes and providing online resources for schools.
The broadcaster Sky, for example, runs an exciting educational initiative, “Sky Skills Studios”, which allows pupils between the ages of eight and 18 to use state-of-the-art technology to create a news report. The programme combines the disciplines of team-working, ICT, creativity, problem-solving, communication and self-management – all crucial life skills for the world of work.
ICT is emerging as one of the life skills that is in greatest demand. And computing science – which involves far more detailed knowledge than the catch-all title of ICT – is acknowledged as an area of real skills shortage in the UK.
According to the IT and business sector body e-skills UK, over the next five years the country’s digital industries face an estimated annual skills shortage of between 9,000 and 10,000 people.
Its members are proactively promoting computer science in a range of ways – CC4G (Computer Clubs for Girls), an initiative also sponsored by BT, which aims to tackle the gender imbalance in the sector; running the IT Ambassadors scheme which raises awareness of ICT and influences educational content; and its Schools Steering Groups programme, which encourages representatives of leading companies to get involved in IT education.
Many banks and financial institutions have already developed resources to help schools teach financial literacy: Barclays Money Skills, Standard Life and Nationwide are just a few of the household names who develop resources, run school competitions, and can support teachers. The financial sector is clear that being involved in delivering financial education offers various benefits: attracting potential employees via a cost-effective recruitment pipeline; building a potential customer base; and making young people more money-savvy.
Increasingly, banks are also keen to stress their community involvement, and training employees to help teachers deliver financial literacy is a win-win situation for both sides.
Skills Development Scotland, a Scottish Government agency which works closely with businesses, has meanwhile put a focus on developing “career management skills” through a service offering everything from one-to-one coaching, group sessions, meaningful work experience, industry contact and labour market information. All these elements are supported by an innovative online support service, My World of Work (http://www.myworldofwork.co.uk).