Friday, February 9, 2018

News: Skills summit discusses "hard to fill" vacancies

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A forum of employers and jobhunters from the Sheffield city region (SCR) are inspiring innovative ways to tackle the skills gap and the issue of "hard to fill" vacancies.

Experts at the SCR collaborated extensively with more than 250 employers and over 250 jobseekers to develop how applicants look for work and employers look for the right staff, after an earlier study found that 2,345 local employers had a vacancy that they considered hard to fill - they were struggling to fill the vacancy for some reason.

With 31% of vacancies falling into this category the collaboration and study also found that young jobhunters said they would take a pay cut in return for getting skills training and experience in their first post.

In the foreward to the report, Sir Nigel Knowles, Chair, Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), hinted at what more needs to be done, highlighting that there needs to be a change the culture.

Knowles said: "We need to make sure that applicants have the skills they need to find and get jobs, and then to progress in their careers. Employers have been vocal about the skills that applicants leave academia with, compared to what industry requires. Curriculums are perceived to be outdated, and lacking the appropriate scope and depth.

"Equally, applicants felt that interviews had not given them the best opportunity to present their full skill set, and they felt that transferable skills were overlooked by employers. Responses also showed that soft skills such as innovation, critical thinking and time management are key to employers, but not currently prioritised by young applicants. A single, simple solution doesn't exist."

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A summit was held this week on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham to discuss the report and wider skills issues.

One problem is that that preparing young applicants for the world of work slips between education, skills and economic strategies. One way to increase the quality and quantity of careers and enterprise learning for young people is through the Enterprise Adviser Network which sees volunteers from the world of work and business team up with local schools.

Ian Goodall, managing director of Rotherham-based digital recruitment agency Aardvark Swift, said: "I firmly believe that the more employer experiences a child has during their education, the better aware they will be of the options available to them and what's required to secure one of these roles. This knowledge opens up new ideas, new pathways, and broadens their horizons. It also creates a motivated and aspirational child, which in turn creates a better student.

"This is why I opted to become an Enterprise Advisor. My role is to partner with a member of staff and help them to devise and organise events that create a larger number of employer experiences for all children in St. Bernard's [a secondary school in Rotherham]. We've managed this by inviting speakers in to form periods, running CV Focus Groups days with local employers, careers days with local HE and Apprenticeship providers. And we have other ideas for the future. It's very rewarding for me and I'm sure many kids have been inspired to think differently about their futures."

Dr Lisa Clarke, the SCR's Senior Economic Policy Manager who led the report, said: "This is a really useful report which should help employers with hard-to-fill vacancies and jobseekers applying for positions. It makes it very clear where adjustments could be made that would encourage people to stay in this region.

"I hope the SCR can encourage co-operation on areas that will benefit both jobseekers and employers – work experience, career progression, people management skills, training for senior positions, and technical and soft skills."

SCR website

Images: Grad Consult

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