Despite the UK’s economy recording a 12th consecutive quarter of growth, the job market is as competitive as ever and for young people the statistics are somewhat alarming. Excluding young people not in full-time education, 414,000 people aged 16-24 were unemployed in January-March 2016, highlighting just how competitive the jobs market is for 16-24 year olds in the UK.

In terms of challenges currently faced by Colleges, ensuring that your learners are “Job Ready” must be one of the most important tests of provision. After all, isn’t the principal purpose of Further Education to provide a skilled workforce that meets the demands of the economy? To achieve this, therefore, it is necessary to ask the question: “What makes a Learner Job Ready?”

The answer to this question is not a simple one. There are many factors that determine whether or not learners are ready to make the transition from learning into work, generically called Employability Skills. This includes CV, Job Search, Interview Techniques, Qualifications, Key Skills, Work Experience, Transferable Skills (Maths & English), Mindset, Personal Learning & Thinking Skills and Attendance etc.

However, following some research conducted by REED NCFE and Leeds University, it appears the two most fundamental elements of achieving “Job Readiness” are:

a) Possessing and demonstrating the correct Mindset. This is absolutely crucial. It will increase your learners' chances of securing a Job Interview - research has shown that demonstrating at least one Mindset quality on your CV will increase your chances of getting an interview by three times; demonstrating two Mindset qualities on your CV will increase your chances of getting an interview by seven times. It will also ensure that learners understand the need to be resilient, determined and have the motivation to go above and beyond in their journey to employment. Learners need to be determined to seek advice on their CV, whilst having the flexibility to understand and make suggested changes to it. Learners must have the commitment to put the hard yards into speculatively contacting employers for an interview, calling to ask about their current application, chasing up interview feedback, etc…

b) Possessing and demonstrating the correct Employability Skills. Here it is important to understand the difference between a learner just having a CV compared with a learner who has a 'winning' CV that demonstrates Mindset qualities. It is necessary for learners to have the confidence and skills to explore the hidden labour market as well as applying for those positions advertised on job boards or on employer websites. To proactively research and target employers they want to work for, having the confidence to call and make speculative approaches, marketing both their Mindset and Skills. Learners must have the confidence, positive body language and social skills to introduce themselves effectively, make eye contact and be able to talk about their current situation, career goals and key skills in an engaging manner. After all, over 90% of employers make their hiring decision in just the first three minutes of an interview.

Admittedly, and as previously pointed out, there are other factors that can and do contribute to your learners achieving “job readiness”. For example, Work Experience, Qualifications and Transferable Skills certainly add value and increase employment probabilities. Nevertheless, it is the two elements above that will undoubtedly increase employment outcomes among your leavers. Get these two correct and unemployment of 16-24 year olds in the communities that you serve will start to decrease; employment destination data will be the envy of others and your reputation for supporting learners into work will grow and grow.

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