Few industries have failed to feel the effects of the skills shortage.

Even in highly competitive sectors bursting with qualified candidates, essential soft skills can be lacking – particularly from the new wave of workers: school and college leavers and graduates.

We – managers, recruiters, business leaders – can take steps to help address this, and it begins with education. Whilst this may not sound relevant to our day-to-day roles, it can be surprisingly simple to facilitate.

Build links with your local schools and colleges

Local education providers are often crying out for businesses to connect with them.  You could offer a careers talk during school assembly, or send along members of your team to hold mock interviews.

However you get involved, you can share your workplace experiences and instil the importance of skills such as team work, communication, and time management.

Often the time and cost demands placed on your organisation are limited, whilst the inspiration you will offer to young people in your community could be limitless. Schools recognise this, but many do not have the resources to proactively approach you.

It’s up to us, then, to set the wheels in motion and reach out.

Alternatively, approach a local educational charity (ours is the Basingstoke Consortium), which may be able to act as the middle man between your organisation and schools in your area.

At a higher level, collaboration between businesses and universities is also highly beneficial. Relationships like this can facilitate great change, as employers can help academia better understand the essential soft skills that businesses need.

Meanwhile, potential graduate employees may be exposed to businesses that they otherwise would not have encountered – which is particularly beneficial for SMEs with small recruitment budgets.

Share your positive experiences

Perceptions of apprenticeships are now changing, from No.10 down to your next door neighbour.

Increasingly young people are aware that these can be a valuable way to enter the world of work, learn and earn. But it’s other businesses who may need convincing that an apprenticeship is a commercially sound and practically viable option for them.

If you’ve experienced the benefits of an apprenticeship scheme, share your organisation’s story. Create a positive case study that you can share with industry colleagues, clients and partners, on social media and at networking events.

Become part of the dialogue about the positive impact of apprenticeships and prove that these make business sense in addition to offering young people opportunity.

The same goes for work experience and internships. Help alter the preconception that internships are poorly paid labour and work experience placements consist of endless coffee runs, filing and photo-copying.

If appropriate, give your placement students a voice where they can share their own experiences and explain what skills they’ve learnt, be that on your blog, company Facebook page or at an event.

We can be the grains of sand

We’re not going to change the skills landscape overnight. But if employers get involved with helping to educate a new generation of workers, we could enhance a new wave of workers’ employability and open their eyes to opportunities they simply can’t find out about in school.

And we can be part of a conversation which positively promotes apprenticeships, internships and vocational training to our fellow business leaders.

Let’s all get stuck in.

Find out more

Why did Lewis decide an apprenticeship was right for him?

The skills gap – what can employers do?

What’s next for college leavers?

About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.