As we head towards UK Employability Day, it seems pertinent to think about the work of the employment support sector[i] and the impact it has on the lives of job seekers and learners, young and old. It is worth us taking a pause and asking ourselves – what exactly is “employability”?
The online Cambridge English Dictionary defines it thus:
“Employability: the skills and abilities that allow you to be employed. There will no longer be jobs for life, but employability for life.[ii]”
In the last sentence we see the shift to what work may mean in the 21st Century and the importance of being “employable”. So what are these “skills and abilities”? By their nature they are in danger of being nebulous, with different websites giving varying answers from the University of Kent[iii] through to various bloggers with different ideas and agendas[iv] (undertake a Google search and you will find a host of definitions).
We could argue that employability is split into three categories. Skills and abilities which are:
Having an understanding of these categories is important when each of us considers how we build our skills and abilities for the future. We could consider number one to be made up mainly of our ‘hard skills’, which are seen as quantifiable[v] and can be measured (traditionally by an exam or end point assessment). However, many employers are more interested in our ‘soft skills’, which are far more intangible. “According to recent research by Pareto … Only a demonstrable skill set (87%) was more sought-after than work experience, with evidence of communication, problem-solving and leadership being the most desired by recruiters.”[vi]
Building and growing these softer skills can be challenging. When we look globally we can see that this isn’t limited to our country and may even be a generational issue, as this article from Australia argues: “We’ve raised Generation Hopeless: millennials who lack basic life and workplace skills. And it’s a big issue.”
Keeping with an observation from Australia, one of their leading mental health charities highlights the role parents and carers can play in helping our young people develop the skills they need for the future: “Problem solving and teenagers”. Even with this support these skills are difficult to hone – many of us during our lives will require additional help and support to become more ‘employable’, particularly in a changing work place which faces threats such as automation[vii].
Which brings us back to Employability Day and the work of employment support services. ERSA (the professional body which represents these services) defines this work as moving people “towards, into or up within the labour market.” Encompassing a “range of services that could directly help someone into work, such as interview practice and CV support, or be designed to help someone get to the point where they are able to take on some sort of employment, such as confidence building, talking therapies and management of a health condition or disability. It also includes skills training, apprenticeships and traineeships.[viii]”
It is this which CXK is committed to and passionate about, delivering on this agenda across all our services:
Employability matters to each of us, which is why we put all our efforts into “inspiring people to thrive” – working together to help bring about a better future for the individuals we work with.