School leavers lack employability skills

Concerns over the skill levels of school leavers have been heightened by a new report which indicates that employers are increasingly unwilling to take on young recruits.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) latest Labour Market Outlook study, a mere 12 per cent of the employers polled said that they intend to hire 16-year-olds direct from school over the next three months

This represents a fall of 2 per cent on the figure for last year. Similarly, the number of employers aiming to recruit school-leavers aged 17-18 and above has fallen to a quarter from almost a third (31 per cent) in the same period in 2010.

In contrast, demand for migrant workers has increased to a record high, with a quarter of employers now planning to hire migrant workers in the third quarter of 2011.

In response to the annual cap on non-EU migrants, more employers reported they will hire EU migrant workers (34 per cent) than up-skill existing workers (23 per cent) or recruit more graduates (18 per cent).

The number of employers planning to take on higher education leavers under the age of 24 is 38 per cent, compared with 47 per cent last year. However, the Government’s efforts to boost the employment of apprentices appears to be working, with 37 per cent of respondents planning to recruit apprentices, up by 13 per cent on the year.

Questioned as to the steps that need to be taken to improve recruitment among young people, employers pinpointed higher levels of literacy (53 per cent) and numeracy (42 per cent), as well as employability skills, such as good customer service skills (40 per cent) and good communication (40 per cent).

Gerwyn Davies, the CIPD’s public policy adviser, commented: “Youth unemployment looks set to rise further amid employer concerns about the employability of young people.

“The migration cap is stemming the flow of skilled non-EU migrant workers on the one hand, but increasing the supply of EU workers with the other, which highlights the relative ineffectiveness of the cap in bringing net migration levels down.

“Employers seem eager to take full advantage of this, to make use of their positive attitude and their skills.”

Mr Davies added that the perception among many employers is that too many young people lack the necessary qualities, which may explain why fewer young people are being hired.

The CIPD urged the Government to redouble its efforts to ensure that the education and skills system is fit for purpose and that young people can find a foothold in an increasingly competitive jobs market.