Employability – Benefits for All

Interview with Margaret Kelvey (Learning and Development Consultant (UK) from Kelvey Associates. Margaret is a highly knowledgable senior manager, with significant experience of working in employability and widening participation initiatives, across the UK.

I believe there is significant learning and knowledge we can take from the knowledge and experience shared in this interview, that supports organisations looking at developing holistic skills induction programmes and employability delivery in India.

  1. What would be useful is to understand how viable is an Employability Strategy is to an organisation in India?
  2. Are there examples of best practice employability programme delivery you are aware of in India?
  3. And of course, whether the content provided in this interview was useful and reflective of organisational practices, that maybe are in need of revisiting, revamping or even initiating?

What are your areas of expertise?

I have extensive UK wide experience in managing and delivering projects at national, regional and local level in the areas of Widening Participation, Employability, Literacy, Language and Numeracy and Financial Capability.

Why the focus on employability?

Employability skills are central to gaining and keeping employment, as well as career progression.  They are a set of skills, knowledge and personal attributes that make an individual more likely to get work, stay in work and contribute effectively once in employment to the benefit of themselves, the workforce, the wider community and the economy as a whole.

What is employability and why is it important to employers?

Employability skills are varied and extensive, but can be categorised into four areas:

  • Behavioural (enthusiasm, adaptability, resilience, thoroughness)
  • Functional (literacy, language, numeracy, IT end user)
  • Intellectual (planning, problem solving, self management) and;
  • Work related (team working, customer service, time management).

A close look at skills gaps within companies in England, according to the Skills for Business Network, shows the most common shortfalls are in team working, customer service, communication, problem solving and literacy and numeracy.

It is not only low skilled occupations that employers have expressed concern about, but it is also the level of employability skills amongst graduates entering the workforce.  In today’s economic climate employers need graduates able to demonstrate well developed employability skills, alongside their academic achievements.

Why invest in employability?

Investing in employability skills can have a significant impact on the performance of businesses and organisations, including improved retention and turnover rates, a more motivated workforce and enhanced levels of operation.

For employers an employability strategy to improve employees’ skills can help address important workplace issues resulting in:

  • Increased productivity and competitiveness
  • Cost savings and reduced wastage
  • Improved health and safety
  • Individuals matched to the most appropriate positions
  • Learning and development mapped to job role requirements
  • Increased staff morale

What are the key enablers to making an employability strategy work?

Key to making an employability strategy work within an organisation, is commitment from senior management – buy in from the top.  A top down, bottom up whole organisation approach with atraining needs analysis to clearly identify skills and skills gaps across the organisation, plusclose partnership working with the learning and development department or local training provider or educational institution, can bring significant results terms of efficiency and productivity.

What difference will employability make?

Employers can also benefit in many ways from close partnership working with education and training providers and vice versa on work in developing employability skills.  The UKCES (UK Commission for Employment and Skills, 2009) reports that getting employers involved, transforms training and that their involvement is essential.

Education and training providers can work with employers to offer courses, which enable their learners to be equipped with the employability skills and knowledge necessary for the jobs they apply for.

Individuals gain from having core transferable employability skills, which increase their ability to get work, to stay in employment and to progress further in work.  Worklessness, poverty and poor health are all inextricably interwoven, as recognised by the Scottish Government in Workforce Plus – an Employability Framework for Scotland – in which tackling poverty and disadvantage and economic growth go hand in hand.  Gaining employability skills helps to grow people as well as the economy – they are central to future productivity and economic growth.

Have you any examples in your work to demonstrate the potential benefits for all?

In my own work there have been numerous examples of projects and initiatives, which I have managed or been closely involved with where the development of employability skills has made a significant difference with benefits for all – individuals, their families, the community and the workplace.  These are just a few:

  • In South Wales a pre-employment programme helped local unemployed people to gain sustainable employment in the health sector in hard to fill entry level jobs with a resulting positive impact on individuals and their families, as well as the NHS Trust involved, the local economy and community cohesion.
  • A health sector programme in the north west of England gave unemployed young people (NEETs, young people not in employment, education or training) the opportunity to gain work experience, alongside class based training, enabling them to learn valuable skills and gain confidence to apply successfully for employment in their local NHS Trust.
  • Another innovative initiative ‘Women into Work’ supported women returners into sustainable employment with local employers closely involved in the training – helping with job applications and mock interviews and providing valuable work experience opportunities – thus building the skills, knowledge and confidence needed to gain employment.

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