New Youth Employability Skills Review 2017 – unify employability skills or risk alienating young people

Our 2017 Youth Employability Review addresses 18 skills frameworks and 86 reports in the UK to explore of a unified set of skills for young people. Find out more.

Download review

Employability skills have become an increasingly hot topic, with many working on the principle that if we can improve the employability skills of young people, they are more likely to progress. Yet many young people today still struggle to identify what employability skills are and how they might develop and identify them. A plethora of reports, reviews and suggested skills are available making it difficult for young people to know what skills are and how they can further develop them. Initial searches showcase a range of skills listed under employability, life skills, capabilities and career management skills.

It’s generally accepted that a mix of skills exists that’s useful both in employment and in a young person’s transition from school to further study. What these skills are – and how they’re labelled – is a subject of lengthy discussion, with a lack of clarity both anecdotally and in literature related to the topic.

Download the 2017 Youth Employment UK Employability Review

The Youth Employment UK Employability Review, published 26th June 2017, is recommended reading for anyone in the youth employment sector. It studies and compares 18 frameworks and 86 reports referring to employability skills to source commonalities and consider areas for improvement.

What do young people want and need from employability skills frameworks?

  • Do young people understand the widely varied terminology used to outline employability skills in the UK youth employment sector?
  • Do they feel that existing frameworks relate to their own needs and goals?
  • Can they get direct access to these frameworks?
  • Do they receive clear and tangible support as a result of the frameworks currently in use?

There’s a wealth of information on employability skills available in the UK, but is it reaching young people in a way they can understand, relate to and use?

The review revealed that 26 employability skills in total were recommended across all reports and frameworks studied.

That’s a lot of skills for a young person to get to grips with.

Review insights collected from practitioners in the youth employment sector – including young people

Research and insights in the review have been supported by a series of impartial youth-led focus groups, roundtables and surveys to determine key employability skills and effective terminology relating to them, and consider how the narrative around employability skills could be made more effective. Contributors have included the Department for Education, Department for Work and Pensions, The Careers and Enterprise Company, The Princes Trust, Clarion Housing, City and Guilds, AELP, CentrePoint, Institute of Employability Professionals, London Councils, Costain, Impetus PEF, Catch 22, The Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, The National Citizen Service and WorldSkills.

With youth input, the review has proposed a foundation framework of employability skills to:

  • Enable young people to access and understand the narrative around skills
  • Create a unified, streamlined framework that employers can engage with
  • Create a common language around skills for young people that can be embedded in education and programmes.

We asked participating young people what they thought the biggest challenges were for young people like themselves leaving education and looking for employment. The responses strongly indicated that many young people find the difference between education and employment overwhelming and feel insufficiently prepared for the transition.

“Young people are not made aware of the skills most employers desire”

“The biggest challenge for young people is not having the confidence in employability skills”

“The workplace is very different to the school environment. You don’t realize that there will be big expectations of you & you don’t really know how to act/conduct yourself. Suddenly you’re in a very different environment with industry professional and that can be scary.”

What can be done to increase engagement with employability skills in the UK?

Following engagement from all stakeholders it was possible to decide a definitive set of five skills:

key employability skills

So many organisations are deeply invested in helping young people to progress and develop the skills for work. There’s no simple answer, and this is likely to continue as the worlds of work and education evolve.

What Youth Employment UK has identified is that the complexity of this space is not helping the young people which this work particularly aims to support. Young people today do not feel any more confident about their skills for work. If anything, our research – and that of other organisations – has shown that young people feel anxious about their futures.

If, as we recommend in the 2017 youth employability review, organisations which support young people are able to agree and work to a common framework, we believe that more young people will be able to access the tools and support that they need in this area. We will be adapting our Young Professional Membership within the coming weeks to reflect the findings of the report, from 11th August these 5 skills will form the basis of the Young Professional.

Our emphasised recommendation: young people should be a core part of any development work around employability skills, frameworks and supporting resources.

It is clear that all young people should be able to progress. We must collectively ensure that the tools created to enable that are accessible and wherever possible universal, leaving no-one behind.

About Youth Employment UK

Youth Employment UK is the secretariat of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Youth Employment, and home to the Talent Match Mark Awards for youth-friendly employers. It also hosts free Young Professional training for young people to build their skills confidence. A youth-led non-profit organisation, it has campaigned for youth employment since 2012.

CEO Laura-Jane Rawlings is available for press comment on the Youth Employabity 2017 review or any aspect of youth employment policy and related youth engagement. Please contact for further enquiries.

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For more information, please email or call 01536 513388.

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