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UNPREPARED! - at work for the first time, are you destined for an unpleasant shock?

If you’re a young person arriving at work for the first time, you may be destined for an unpleasant shock. Not just from coming face-to-face with the reality of the world of work. What’s more disconcerting is that around four out of ten employers complain that those between 16-to 18-year-olds are ill-prepared for work.

College leavers fare slightly better. Just over one in three employers say these leavers are relatively poorly (27%) or poorly prepared (9%). University/higher education institution-leavers do better still. Yet almost a third of employers still say university graduates are not well-prepared, with over a quarter stating that they are relatively poorly prepared.

So why are new work hopefuls so likely to disappoint their new employers and, by implication, struggle to succeed at work?

The reasons for this lack of preparedness are clear. Apart from a lack of maturity, those starting work have poor attitudes or lack motivation, common sense or required skills or competencies.

What do employers mean when they say they want their recruits to have “competencies”? They’re seeking essential rather than highly specialist skills. What matters when moving from the classroom to the workplace are ‘employability’ skills. These include teamwork, presenting and problem-solving. They’re critical because they enable recruits to progress and adapt.

Technology, work, and employment keep changing at a dizzying rate. Today there are few sure bets in guaranteed employment and for the foreseeable future. Once, if you studied some professions such as accountancy, law, or even medicine, you could be sure you’d still have a job for years to come. No longer. Machine learning, artificial intelligence and communications technology are eroding these certainties. It’s even more true for less formal professions or roles.

The reality of work faced by anyone leaving school, college or university is that most employers want candidates with ‘employability’ skills and a broad understanding of their sector. Rather than specialist skills or knowledge required for specific vacancies.

What proves to be critical is that young people demonstrate these employability skills when entering the workplace. They are also expected to develop these skills throughout their working lives.

So far, though, there’s no universal framework for helping young people prepare for work. Consequently, help to prepare for the modern workplace remains random and scarce. Most recently, organisations have also cut back on resources for learning.

There’s also been a seismic shift to digital learning away from in-person face-to-face development. Organisations have resorted to using webinars or virtual classrooms. But the take-up of these emerging technologies continues to prove uninspiring. For example, there’s over-reliance on mobile apps, chatbots, VR and AR animations or games. Few employers have thought through how to digitalise learning.

50 Ways to Succeed at Work provides some of the missing down-to-earth employability advice. Some topics, for example, may seem entirely obvious, yet knowing what action to take often requires more than sheer common sense. What young people need is some of the know-how that stems from actually being employed. No wonder they can seem unprepared!


Reforming technical education, CIPD 2018:

Learning and skills at work survey, CIPD 2021:

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