Too few skills, too much confidence

Aug 15 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

More than three quarters of young people coming into the workplace have a higher estimation of their abilities than is the reality – and so may find themselves in for a rude shock.

A survey of UK businesses has found that employers believe young workers need to be doing more to bridge the gaps in their business skills before entering the workplace.

Too many young employees still come to the workplace with few business skills, too much text book theory and too high an estimation of their abilities, all leading to significant costs to businesses, said the survey commissioned by enterprise charity Young Enterprise.

Its poll of HR directors found most identified real skills gaps among the intake of employees under the age of 22 which in turn had an impact on their companies' annual training budgets.

Nearly seven out of 10 felt many young employees were not equipped for the business world.

More than three quarters believed young employees often had a higher estimation of their abilities than was the reality.

Nearly two thirds believed too much emphasis was placed on theory rather than practice at school and university.

More than half – 58 per cent – believed youngsters had not been trained to think laterally.

And more than eight out of 10 strongly felt young people needed to gain more experience of the business world while at school or college, with 70 per cent recommending supplementing coursework with business training.

In terms of specific skills gaps, businesses identified three key areas for concern: project management (50 per cent) financial skills (45 per cent) and leadership (49 per cent).

More than a third also believed that time management skills were lacking among many young workers, while one third cited poor presentation and reporting skills.

The fact that businesses had identified these gaps is not necessarily reflected in their training spend.

Just 17 per cent said that project management training was undertaken in a young employee's first year, with just 23 per cent carrying out financial skills training and 26 per cent focusing on leadership training.

By contrast, two thirds said teamwork training was scheduled in a young employer's first year, but only 11 per cent cited this as a skills gap.

While nearly half of the HR directors polled said their young workforce did not shy away from competing, 43 per cent said young employees lacked entrepreneurial flair, 36 per cent said they could not deal with criticism and a third said they could not deal with setbacks.

Michael Savory, chief executive of Young Enterprise, said: "Each year, training young people in key business skills costs British business between £600 and £700 per employee, and delays the usefulness of that employee to them."