The education system’s failure to adapt to employers’ requirements for soft skills rather than technical expertise among entry-level job candidates means that many young people are underequipped for today’s world of work.
According to a report from the Work Foundation entitled ‘Lost in Transition’, more than 450,000 under-25 year olds have no experience of sustained paid employment beyond casual or holiday work.
Much of the problem is that, while jobs have progressively moved from traditional manufacturing companies to service industries, which require softer skills such as good communication or team-working abilities, the education system has not adapted to reflect these changing needs.
Dr Paul Sissons, the report’s author, said that the labour market had changed considerably over the past few decades, but warned: “A period of worklessness while young can detrimentally impact people’s careers over the longer term. More needs to be done to support young people at this crucial point of transition, and local service provision must be geared up to address this aim.”
For example, services needed to be coordinated effectively between local government, schools, employers and the third sector to prevent young people from falling through the gaps, he added.
Earlier this week, however, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development launched a ‘Skills Strategy’, which is to be discussed at its Ministerial Meeting in Paris this week and is aimed particularly at trying to cut youth unemployment.
The goal of the Skills Strategy is to provide countries with a framework in which to analyse their strengths and weaknesses and recommend ways to take action. Its suggestions include:
- Involving employers and trade unions more closely in designing and providing education and training programmes
- Introducing a levy on employers to boost their contribution to staff learning in particular sectors or regions
- Improving the quality of learning outcomes by shifting the focus from qualifications-based education to skills-oriented learning
- Making it easier for skilled workers to move around inside their own country and across international borders
- Change tax and benefit systems to ensure that work pays.
To help individual countries obtain a clearer picture of their workforce’s skills and see how they compare with elsewhere, the OECD is carrying out an international survey of more than 5,000 adults aged 16 to 65 in 26 countries. Initial results will be published in October 2013 in the form of an ‘OECD Skills Outlook’ report.