There are many important characteristics that are necessary for a young person to be able to make the step into employment adroitly. Intelligence, usually measured by exam results, is obviously a major sorting criterion. But such characteristics as confidence, maturity, initiative, good communication skills and reliability are other important attributes that are often looked for by employers.
But does a life spent in education - school, 6th form or college and then university - actually provide these things for students to be ready for employment? Or, does the focus on preparing students for exams mean that they don’t develop the skills necessary to perform in a different environment?
A survey on thestudentroom.co.uk, asking our members questions about employment and careers provides an interesting insight into the mindset of young people as they prepare to enter the job market, or are approaching the time when they will have to.
We asked our members ‘Do you feel adequately prepared to find and get a job?’, with the results making for interesting reading. Of the 2000 people that have completed the survey so far, the results are as follows:
- 26.7% felt that they were fully prepared to find and secure employment
- 43.8% felt that they were somewhat prepared to find and secure employment
- 22.4% felt that they were not really ready for the challenge of finding and securing employment
- And 7.1% felt that there were not yet prepared to find and secure employment
The percentages read slightly differently amongst different education levels, as perhaps you’d expect, but some of these seem anomalous compared to expectations.
Of our school students in year 11 or above and college students, the percentage feeling unprepared for entering the jobs market rises to 9%, with the number feeling fully ready dropping slightly to 23%.
With those students who are taking gap years, interestingly the percentage of those who are ready for finding employment drops to just 19.2% – despite working and earning cash being one of the most common activities taken up by gap year students – while the somewhat ready category jumps to 48.3%.
Our university undergraduates, while by no means the most prepared – with 24.9% saying they are ready for employment – the least unprepared, with just 4.5% saying they felt that they were not ready to find and secure a job.
It’s the postgraduate level students that feel the most prepared, with a high of 38.1% feeling ready for jobs, marginally lower than the 41% that are in the somewhat ready category. 4.8% of this group still feel unprepared.
Of those who have already graduated and are currently looking for jobs, those that feel ready for employment rests at 28.3%, with the majority still being the 37% who only feel somewhat prepared. 6.5% of those that fit in this category still feel unprepared for the challenge of finding employment, even after completing all their studies.
Careers Services – effective help?
What can be done to improve the percentage of people that feel ready for employment when they leave education? In an attempt to find out, we asked in our survey for respondents to rate out of 5 (with 5 being excellent and 1 being very poor) the quality of the careers services they were offered at school, and university where applicable, in the following categories:
- Help supporting you make up your mind which careers you’d be suited to
- Information/advice about careers/jobs
- Information/advice about options for studying/training
- Information/advice about work experience/internships
- Information about alternatives to going to university
- The availability and quality of information and advice tailored to you specifically
- Information about useful websites to go to for more information
- Support with writing your CV, attending interviews etc
- Generally preparing you for the workplace
The results are quite discouraging. Overall ratings for schools saw categories 1, 5, 6 and 9 feature a majority rating of 1 out of 5, whilst no category had a majority of respondents scoring it higher than 3 out of 5. The combined percentages for those rated very poor or poor (1 or 2 out of 5) were higher than those rated good or excellent (4 or 5 out of 5) in all but two categories – 3 and 7. The ratings for the university careers service are slightly better, where all categories scored a healthy majority of 3 out of 5 ratings, and combined percentages favour the good or excellent side in all categories.
So, one way of helping young people feel more prepared would be to improve the quality of the careers services on offer, especially in schools and colleges, which is really where good habits and a positive outlook can be instilled.
Another thing that could be done to improve things for students would be to make careers advice compulsory, to give students a better idea of the options available to them. According to our results, over half (51.7%) of respondents would only receive careers advice at school if they requested it, whilst that number increases to 58.9% at university level. A somewhat shocking statistic is that, despite the fact that over half have to ask for careers advice at schools, only 10.7% had had no contact with them at all, whereas a staggering 56.4% of university level students have had no contact with their careers service – suggestive that the younger students are taking a more proactive approach, or perhaps, that university level students, disenchanted with the state of the jobs market at the moment, are focussing on their studies for the time being.