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Joint dialogue: How are schools developing real employability skills?

There have been numerous studies asking employers ‘what they really want’ in terms of workforce skills. These often show that employers express concerns about students’ skills level in certain areas, for instance, communications. But there are two challenges – the number of overlapping studies and the broad definition of these skills. This report takes a summative approach, aiming to come up with a more collective view of the skills gaps. It also takes this to a greater level of detail, looking at specific tasks and functions (for example, in the case of communication this could be about participating in meetings, making presentations, writing emails or drafting reports). Second, we wanted to understand specifically where young people are being supported to develop these skills. In some cases, this will be in the classroom (e.g. preparing a presentation as a team in a geography class) and in others it will be in ‘extra-curricular’ settings from after school clubs to work experience to scouts. The study draws upon existing literature assessing the skills and behaviours young people need to find work, and then thrive once there. The objective of this literature search was to create a collective view of the skills employers most commonly felt are needed in the workforce. The findings gathered from the literature formed the main discussion with professionals with first-hand experience of recruitment in large and small enterprises across private, public and third sectors. The report also sets out the findings from a survey of 626 secondary school teaching staff based in England. The survey, completed by staff at independent, maintained and academy institutions, investigated how the skills and competencies are being developed in different school-based environments. It went on to explore how changes to the curriculum, at both Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4, had impacted on the ability of schools to develop the skills needed in the 21st century labour market.