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Poor employability skills holding back entry-level jobseekers

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Employers are failing to fill entry-level positions despite a surplus of talent, according to research by totaljobs.com and IPPR.

The report, UK labour market insights – the entry-level dilemma, found one in seven entry-level candidates remain unemployed each year and a similar proportion of British businesses (15%) have been unable to fill an entry-level role in the past three years.

The unemployment rate for entry-level jobseekers, defined as 16- to 24-year-olds who have gained a qualification and left education in the past year, increased by four percentage points to 16% between 2008 and 2013.

Unemployment affects those with lower qualifications (GCSE D-G) the most, at 28% unemployed, up from 22% in 2008. Part of the problem is a lack of basic employability skills, such as literacy and numeracy, cited by 43% of employers struggling to fill entry-level posts.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, told a panel discussion at the report's launch that more work needs to be done to help candidates become "job ready".

He said another issue facing businesses and universities is that they are being asked to fix problems, such as job readiness and career advice, "that are much easier to fix much further down the food chain". 

"For example, in Germany they do tend to have much better careers advice much earlier," he explained.

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of university think tank Million+, said the assumption that entry-level workers should be job-ready was not always realistic.

She added that part of the unemployment problem stemmed from a "snobbery" of businesses attempting to only recruit candidates who had graduated from elite universities, a practice she labelled as "doing the milk round".

Panellists discussed several solutions to the problem, including collaborating more closely with schools and government, introducing more "sandwich" work placement years in university courses, apprenticeships and larger companies encouraging their supply chain to offer work placements.