What Employers Want V. What They Offer

As you may know, Linking London has had an increasing focus on providing partners with resources to support their understanding of the labour market, including the current picture and projections going forward. As one of my jobs over the summer is to update our current Linking London LMI report – Key Sectors within London’s Economy, Continuing Trends and Growth Sectors, Plus the Needs for the Future (2015) – I was pleased that the latest version of the Employer Perspectives report came out earlier this month.

The Employer Perspectives Survey (EPS) is a biennial report, running in its current form since 2010. Historically, it has been the responsibility of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), but ownership of the survey transferred to the Department for Education (DfE) in 2016. I’ve referred to the findings of these reports regularly when updating our LMI publications.

The survey, conducted between May and August 2016, captures the views of over 18,000 employers across the United Kingdom (10,015 in England). Interviews were conducted at an establishment level, with the most senior person at the site with responsibility for human resources. The study predominantly focuses on what drives employers’ decisions around recruitment and staff development. Authors of the report state that “this insight will serve to improve initiatives designed to help individuals find work, as well as improve initiatives that support business growth and development of the workforce, so they better meet the needs of employers”. The report also includes a significant amount of data on employer’s engagement with apprenticeships, which is worth a read.

I’ve cherry picked some key headlines which I hope you find interesting:

Recruitment channels used

Nearly one in five recruiting employers (18%) relied on only one method of recruitment to fill their vacancies: 11% exclusively used word of mouth or personal recommendations. Approaching three in ten (28%) employers only used “internal” resources to recruit (i.e. word of mouth, adverts on their website or social media only).

What employers look for when recruiting

Employers reported that they valued relevant work experience as the most important factor when assessing potential new recruits: close to two-thirds (65%) rated relevant work experience either critical (24%) or significant (41%). When broken down by region, London employers were more interested in relevant work experience than any other region (72% v. a national average of 64%). Maths and English GCSE A*-C was valued by just over half ofemployers (56%) and a greaterproportion of employers valued vocational qualifications (49%) over more general academic qualifications (46%).

Opportunities for work experience/placements

UK establishments that have provided work placements in the last 12 months has remained consistent since 2014 – when the last EP report was done – at 38%. Three in ten (30%) offered work placements for individuals in education (either school, college or university), 15% offered broad adult placements (commonly work trials or placements aimed at the unemployed), while 7% provided some form of paid or unpaid internship.

Preparedness of education leavers for work

The report summarises employer’s feedback on readiness for work, based on recruiting different types of education leavers. 58% of employers felt that 17-18 year old school leavers were either very well prepared or well prepared, down from 60% in 2014. For 17-18 year old FE leavers this figure goes up to 68%, compared with 72% in 2014. In comparison for university/HE leaver’s, the figure is 80%, down 1% from 2014.

When looking at these figures, what stands out in particular for me is that there is a disconnect between what employers want, in terms of what they are looking for in applicants, and what they are prepared to do to meet this demand. There’s a problem here when, whilst on the one hand close to two-thirds of employers see having previous work experience as critical when selecting applicants, yet on the other hand only just 38% have offered a work placement (in the past year). It’s also concerning that so many (mostly SME) employers still use word of mouth when recruiting. Both of these issues impact young entrants into the labour market and those from disadvantaged backgrounds the most.

Further Information: