Attitude is the top attribute for Thames Valley employers when choosing who they recruit, according to a new report published today.
The Thames Valley Skills, Education and Recruitment Survey found nearly three quarters (73%) of respondents place attitude above qualifications and experience as the most important attribute when looking for prospective employees.
Reading College (part of Activate Learning), Hays Specialist Recruitment and Reading’s senior level networking forum The Twenties Club commissioned the online survey which looks at the how education and employers can work together to meet the needs of businesses across the region. The survey of nearly 100 companies ran from November 2013 to January 2014 and asked participating organisations questions on the importance of skills, education and recruitment and how they embed them in their business, as well as key questions around skills and connecting investment and employment.
The survey findings also revealed that growth was the main driving force behind recruitment for more than half (58%) of businesses surveyed with the majority (60%) looking to recruit junior and mid-manager roles. However, nearly two thirds (61%) admitted they found it difficult to find staff with the right skills and attributes for business with many (68%) believing that apprenticeships better prepare students for working life than university.
The vast majority (89%) of companies felt collaboration between business and education was beneficial in increasing skills. Many (80%) wanted colleges to work better with business to help young people develop work-ready skills with over a third (37%) suggesting this could be achieved through better industry knowledge and surveys.
The report also features comments from a roundtable discussion on the top-level findings, which was attended by fourteen key figures from education, business and politics. The roundtable was held during National Apprenticeship Week in March 2014 and was hosted by Lesley Donoghue, Principal of Reading College, and Mark Sheldon, Managing Director of Hays Specialist Recruitment. The event was chaired by Paula Elliott, Managing Director of PR and marketing agency C8 Consulting, which carried out the online study.
Participants also included Mehran Yadegari from Hays, Pablo Lloyd from Activate Enterprise (part of education group Activate Learning which includes Reading College), Reading East MP Rob Wilson, Sarah Callaghan from economic development company Reading UK CIC, Richard Tyndall from the Federation of Small Businesses, Joanne Harper from UTC Reading, John Morton from business technology analytics firm SAS, Nigel Penn-Simkins from SME business Article 10, Warren Richmond from Retail Marketing Group, Bob Harrison from youth education/employment charity Adviza and Clare Wright from business/community partnership organisation Connect Reading.
Lesley Donoghue, Principal of Reading College, comments: “As we move into a more positive business market employers are considering the wider aspects of the role, and the softer skills that surround every job specification. I also believe that aptitude will be critical. What I mean by aptitude is a readiness or quickness in learning – the ability to pick up responsibilities, take on new challenges and come up with ideas.
“Today we are working in an environment where everyone is multi-tasking and we have fewer staff undertaking a wider range of tasks. We therefore need employees who have a willingness to learn new skills – all the time. In my experience, there has never been a time when young people have left school or college equipped with every skill needed for the world of work. Now however, we need to focus on developing ‘work-ready’ young people with aptitude.”
Mark Sheldon, Managing Director of Hays Specialist Recruitment, comments: “Hiring for learning aptitude is a growing trend. We are finding that the ability to learn new skills is a greater priority than hiring for current expertise and experience. Testing for aptitude at the outset during interview is an important way for organisations to get the right staff on board to deal with business change moving forward.
“What we are also starting to see is more movement in the labour market. Employees who were prepared to sit tight during the downturn are starting to feel more confident as the market becomes more buoyant and will begin to look for other employment opportunities.
“Employers will need to seriously think about what they can offer as a ‘whole’ package rather than just focus on salaries alone. Clearly aspects such as flexible working, pensions, skills, education and training will be a valuable as employees look to enhance their skill set and prepare themselves for ever-changing business requirements.”