Tackling the skills gap through work experience

Tackling the skills gap through work experience


We’ve reported a lot on the forecasted skills gap (after all, there’s a lot of evidence to support it as a tangible employment threat). It’s hardly surprising that it’s being taken seriously.

In a survey of 173 employers who hired 19,630 graduates in 2017 carried out by the ISE, 74% of the employers – who estimated they spent a collective £95 million on their training and development – said that they were taking specific action to close skills gaps.

And that’s because even though 63% of employers believed graduates who had undertaken an internship had the soft skills required, only 48% thought this of graduates in general. But what are the most common skills gaps amongst graduates? (Feel free to peruse the graph at your leisure.)

  • Managing up (5% of employers believed graduates had this skill)
  • Dealing with conflict (12%)
  • Negotiating/influencing (17%)
  • Commercial awareness (23%
  • Resilience (31%)


So, what are employers doing about it? Changes to their recruitment plans was a common response.  Whilst 16% of organisations said that they’d improved their internship development programmes specifically to close skills gaps. They’re also investing more in on-the-job skills training. Graduates typically receive 11 days of soft skills training on structured development programmes – up from eight days in 2015. When it comes to how training is administered, classroom-style is still the most common but there is a trend towards digital methods (with 31% of employers changing the way they use technology in training).

And despite there being a general acknowledgement that work experience increases readiness for work, the young people of today are less prepared than ever. The Office of National Statistics shows just 21% of 16-17-year olds had some form of employment while at secondary school in 2017, compared to 42% in 1997.

Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive at the ISE said: “These findings strengthen the business case for starting, expanding and improving work experience opportunities. Interns are not only better prepared for work, but they also tend to perform better and stay longer.

“A decline in work experience means that the learning curve that many graduates go through is steeper than in the past, and employers may need to invest more time and effort to bring these hires to their required levels of performance. Companies need to be prepared for this investment. Better skilled graduates mean a more productive workforce.”

Julie Broad, Company Graduate Development Manager at Rolls Royce said: “Graduates who have internship experience tend to be better prepared for a business environment when they start a graduate programme. We feel that they have better soft skills and can transition into the business faster than those graduates who do not have any prior work experience.”


Wednesday, 28 March 2018

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