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How to ensure young people develop employability skills

Posted by Jo Lane on Thursday, 2 May 2019
Jo Lane
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As employers complain about the lack of work readiness amongst young people entering the workplace, we look at ways in which employability skills can be developed through work experience, work shadowing and volunteering.

Work ready – what does it mean? Employability skills – what are these? You won’t find these terms on the core curriculum, so is it any wonder many young people are entering the workplace holding a piece of paper with a list of grades and not much more?

Government guidelines regarding work experience have changed over the years and many schools have stopped including work experience in KS3 due to financial constraints, which leaves young people in a difficult position. How can they be ‘work ready’ if they have little or no experience in the workplace?

bird on wire

The new Government guidelines called, The Gatsby Benchmarks, state the following:

  • Students should have multiple opportunities to learn from employers about work, employment and the skills that are valued in the workplace. This can be through a range of activities.
  • Every school should begin to offer every young person seven encounters with employers – at least once each year from year 7 to year 13 – and meet this in full by the end of 2020. Some of these encounters should be with STEM employers.

  • A ‘meaningful encounter’ is one in which the student has an opportunity to learn about what work is like or what it takes to be successful in the workplace.


It is the school’s responsibility to ensure these benchmarks are met, and the good news is there is more flexibility now to help young people achieve these goals.
  • Breakfast clubs with two or three employers answering pupils’ questions.

  • Careers fairs – questionnaire with a prize to make pupils go and ask employers questions.

  • Employer speed dating to find out what kinds of jobs they have.

  • Mock interviews for jobs that pupils actually apply for.

  • Barclays LifeSkills.

  • Invite external speakers into school for assemblies. Alumni, Speakers for Schools and Founders4schools all offer talks from industry experts who are happy to visit schools.

  • Work Shadowing – a relatively easy arrangement to set up where a young person can go into a business and ‘shadow’ an employee for the day.

  • Work Experience – primarily for KS5 pupils at the end of Year 12, but it doesn’t need to be a whole week or during school time.

  • Volunteering – a wealth of volunteering opportunities are available for young people.

Raising awareness of what employability skills are key to helping young people develop them. So what are these skills? Communication, Teamwork, Problem Solving, Creativity, Resilience, are just some of the skills and in reality, pupils are developing these on a daily basis, they just don’t know it!

work exerience

If teachers start to include these characteristics within their lessons this becomes a brilliant starting point. For example, problem solving and resilience in Maths. A pupil can’t solve an equation, but eventually works out a strategy to get the right answer.

What we need to do as teachers are to make them aware of the skills they have just used. Not only does it raise awareness but it also builds confidence. And the good thing is, this doesn’t require planning, it just requires a simple addition to a plenary – ‘what skills have I demonstrated today’.

Listed below are some excellent websites to help you in your classrooms:

  • For employability skills lessons, click here.
  • For external speakers, click here
  • For work experience and work shadowing, click here, here and here



About our Community Expert

JoLane_BlueCircle_CommunityExpert-1Jo Lane
Head of Careers at The Windsor Boys' School

Over 8 years of experience in educational settings including FE colleges and secondary schools. Prior to entering education she worked at the Financial Times in a sales and marketing role before deciding to embark on a career change.

Teaching business whilst completing her part-time PGCE at Greenwich University, she transferred her business skills into the classroom and these skills resulted in her providing students with a range of vocational learning experiences linked to the curriculum, including setting up businesses and creating a youth music festival for local performers.

Building on her experience of working in The City, she has established excellent links with local and national employers who provide valuable career opportunities for her pupils, including work experience, employability sessions and apprenticeships. She is motivated to provide pupils or all abilities with the opportunity to be successful in school and helping them secure the right path for their future career.

Topics: Careers


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