· Features

Are students really being robbed of the right skills to succeed at work?

As summer draws to a close, a whole raft of university graduates and school leavers are readying themselves for the world of work. But are they leaving with the right skills, experience and work ethic?

It is evident, even as early as the job interview stage, that many candidates are woefully underprepared for the world of work. A huge mismatch exists between the skills they possess and those that employers need.

Intellect, the UK's technology trade association, last month said major technology companies are struggling to recruit young people in the UK, with many finding that school or university leavers are not ready for work.

Research from SkillsSoft found the education system is "failing" the next generation of workers. According to the study, 54% of UK CEOs believe a good degree or A-Levels alone are no longer a guarantee of career success.

While they valued qualifications in their future managers, they felt the current education system was doing nothing to equip future workers with the basic skills they needed.

Understanding the problem

There is a void between the skills gained in education and those new starters need. With businesses working leaner and smarter to achieve success, they expect more when it comes to basic skills in order to hit the ground running.

Within a few years, many of today's new recruits will work in remote, virtual, flexible teams. In 10 years they could be leading these teams, so it is vital they begin developing skills and expertise to succeed in this new environment.

Bridging the gap between education and employment

Equipping graduates for the world of work should go beyond interview practice and getting CVs up to scratch. There must be stronger links between education establishments and employers to ensure new starters are given a chance to hone the right skills for their future career.

While it is important to drive the education system to plug the current gap between what businesses need and get from new recruits, so too is the role of training within organisations.

Workers need to be encouraged and supported by their employers and given the tools to further their knowledge in order to meet expectations. Sitting back and criticising the education system isn't working: employers need to accept that they have a responsibility to impart relevant knowledge and teach new skills.

Many organisations are now looking overseas to source top talent. However, instead of heavily focusing recruitment efforts on finding better-skilled foreign workers, UK businesses should look closer to home for talent and work together with new recruits to fine tune and develop their skills with on-the-job training and support.

This means harnessing the latest technologies to deliver increasingly vibrant, visual and interactive multi-channel digital learning programmes within both the school and work environment.

Clearly there is value in bringing in highly skilled workers to fill positions, but the long term strategy to develop the workforce must be rooted in a closer collaboration with UK industry and education and a culture of training, development and opportunity.

Kevin Young is general manager of Skillsoft EMEA