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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Matching education to jobs

This is a hardy perennial - with a touch of recycling. Employers routinely complain about school/college leavers not having the skills required. They've been doing that for forty years to my knowledge and I doubt if there ever was a golden age when there was no difficulty recruiting staff who could spell properly.

Then there is the problem of the aspirations and training/education of young people not matching the employment marketplace. Here's the "latest" on this from the BBC but it isn't really news.

So why is it that "there are 10 times as many people aiming for jobs in the culture, media and sports sector than there are jobs likely to be available whereas "almost a quarter of jobs are in the distribution, hotels and restaurant category, only about one in 40 youngsters are considering careers in these industries"?

Here's a number of possible reasons:
  •  Culture, media and sports are far sexier than distribution, hotels and restaurant work and often better paid with more social hours.
  • It's satisfying for a Careers Advisor to inspire a young person to consider sports work. In contrast, selling the idea of jobs involving flipping burgers at 11pm on a Saturday night is a harder sell.
  • Although Further/Higher education does adapt to the jobs market to some extent, it can be slow and it can feel like a betrayal of academic values. Meanwhile, someone gets on and sells the courses they currently have in stock. Sometime education looks like a racket!
Some ideas:

  • Make it difficult for the education sector to run courses with poor employment prospects.
  • Communicating data about employment prospects to young people is probably of limited use. Only a sub-set of them will be directly motivated by such data. Even if they know that their chances in a particular area are small, they may just decide to work harder and be the best. In itself, laudable and great for those who succeed but a terrible waste of the others.
  • Not a new idea at all but canny employers who can see a skills shortage can try to attract students into suitable training with bursaries, opportunities for vacation work, etc.

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