Business should ensure future workforce fit for purpose - KPMG United Kingdom
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Business is responsible for ensuring the future workforce is fit for purpose

Business should ensure future workforce fit for purpose

Anna Purchas argues that employers have a responsibility to ensure students understand the skills valued by businesses.


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This week over five million sixteen year olds across the UK received the long awaited results of the GCSE exams they sat earlier in the year.  With government reforms meaning that exams have been considerably more demanding this year, Business will be paying close attention to how their future workforce is faring.

But simply observing the outcomes of these milestone results is not enough. Employers have a responsibility to ensure students understand the skills valued by businesses.  Input from employers will enable young people to better prioritise their learning in line with their career path so that when the time comes for them to apply for their job of choice they will have the confidence to stand up and say “I am capable of doing this job well”.

Recent research from KPMG and market research company High Fliers1 revealed that only 37 percent of young women are confident they have the skills needed by today’s employers, with only 27 per cent saying they would consider applying for a career in technology, the biggest reason being they lacked formal training.  This is an alarming statistic and one that could be improved by further input from government and businesses leaders. It is clear that there is a skills gap in the UK, and encouraging more young people, especially females, to consider tech/ STEM careers is one of the hardest challenges we are currently facing.

One of the ways in which KPMG is addressing this problem is with our “WorkReady” programme, which sees volunteers from across the firm visit secondary schools throughout the UK to discuss the world of work with students.  Co-developed with educational agency EdComs, and building on insights from across KPMG, the aim of the programme is to deliver business skills and ensure the UK’s future workforce is equipped with the capabilities needed by employers, including:

  • Being adaptable in a changing world
  • Understanding the importance of STEM – both now and in the future
  • Interpersonal and ‘soft’ skills such as creative problem solving, cognitive flexibility and emotional intelligence

Some of these capabilities and behaviours can be overlooked by young people as skills business leaders look for, although they are valuable in preparing students for a range of rewarding careers including options within professional services.  When interviewing potential candidates for both our apprenticeship and graduate schemes these behaviours and transferrable skills are very much taken in to consideration and are brought to life through interactive assessments. However the real problem is ensuring young people to have the confidence to apply in the first instance. 

My message to any young people out there who have been put off a digital career because they think they are not tech-savvy enough would be that we, as business leaders, absolutely want you to be part of the future of our organisations, and we urge you to have confidence that the skills you possess could be just the skills we need.

1 KPMG and High Fliers polled more than 1000 university students on their own perceptions of their digital skills 

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