EMPLOYABILITY DAY 2017: TAPPING INTO POTENTIAL

blacktmlogo14th July 2017 marks National Employability Day, a monumental day for the UK… OK, so the day may not warrant fireworks around the Tower of London or parades and marches taking to the streets preaching messages of love and equality (believe me, every big day manages to work those two in somewhere), but it is still a fairly important day.

All around the UK, many people – mostly employers and businesses – will be promoting the notion of employability. Now, the official – and brief – definition of ‘employability’ is “A set of achievements, understandings and personal attributes that make individuals more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations.”

Clearly, my idea of brief differs from the general norm. Essentially, Employability Day is about emphasizing the skills people need to gain work and what we as a society can do to help them. So, in an era where that skills gap seems to be getting wider and my generation are expected to be 20-going-on-40 (I pity the next generation who may have to endure 20-going-on-50), you might say that this day is something of a godsend.

Granted, you probably wouldn’t have imagined a godsend coming in the form of a transferable skills workshop, CV mentoring, or public speaking advocate, but to the millions of people missing out on opportunities to work and move forward with their lives, it’s nice to know they’re being given a voice.

When it comes to being employable, it’s not all about overflowing with GCSEs (not that that wouldn’t hurt), it’s also about having various transferable skills like good communication skills or seizing the initiative. But even then, we are still scratching the surface. It’s also about what personal traits a single candidate could have that makes them a great catch. However, good communicators and initiative seizers don’t roll off a conveyor belt… unless they’re robots in which case we don’t have to think about that for another few decades.

Now, when many of these special days come rolling around on the calendar, there’s always a part of us that feels we need these kind of days all year-round, which isn’t always feasible – I don’t think the economy could survive the 365 Days of Christmas – but when you get into the nitty-gritty of these issues, you feel they need a LOT more focus than a single 24-hours.

That’s when Talent Match comes into play. Given that we predominantly work with young people aged 18-24 who have been out of work for over a year, employability and what we can do to increase it is the beating heart of what we do. Our research indicates the average amount of time a young person spends unemployed is two years before they’re picked up on the TM radar.

While it would suit everyone if young people walked into a job practically gift-wrapped, many of today’s young people do not necessarily have those employability skills companies are demanding, meaning that they’re being inadvertently set up pre-conceived by some that they’ll fall below the mark.

The reasons they don’t have all of these employability skills? Because they haven’t had the opportunity to gain them.

Your GCSEs can propel you to further education or give you a working knowledge of certain subjects. But how much of that will actually benefit them in the long run? A lot of sectors require an extensive, specialist knowledge that you can only gain from either college and university or an entry level role.

We don’t necessarily need to ask what people need to get job – God knows a job application will hammer that point home, but what do we do to get it?

It’s the old-fashioned Catch-22. A candidate needs a job in order to gain experience. An employer wants an employee with experience. It doesn’t take a genius to see who ends up disappointed. And because candidates can’t access that experience their professional and personal development ends up permanently stunted and the best they can hope for is eeking out a living on benefits. Getting into employment can be like trying to get into the Death Star… only without the whole life-and-death scenario… although it can feel like that from time to time.

People with hidden conditions can also be hit fairly hard with the unemployment stick. Many of them didn’t have adequate support throughout education, and they will equally struggle not just in terms of the skills they need to develop, but due to the lack of support available for their conditions.

As someone who went through higher education, it frustrated me continuously to think that I was constantly falling below the mark. I felt that what I really needed was a chance for an employer to focus on the potential I have to offer, developing and fine-tuning my skills and setting me on a progressive path…

…so I was really out of luck on that one. Thus I was seemingly doomed to float around unemployment limbo, unable to move forward, pounding on the gates of work to be let in…

…until I came across Talent Match Leicestershire.

They saw something in me and worked with me to develop my skills. The support I received was monumental and went a long way towards giving me work avenues, a practice that Talent Match have done with hundreds upon hundreds of young people since their inception in January 2014.

The reason they’ve been so successful? They deal in potential. Seriously, it’s practically their currency. They look at a young person and see not what they are, but what they have the potential to be. Often, it takes a bit of time and there are a few tumbles along the way, but they do get there and people get that first stepping stone that sets them on their way and gives them a much needed avenue and direction in life.

The hidden condition demographic have also benefited from this level of support, mainly because it has been fine-tuned to their individual needs rather than painting everyone with the same, generic brush. 1:1 and In-Work Support has given them a much-needed platform for their previously underdeveloped skills which will open up new avenues for them.

We know that around the UK, many organizations like Talent Match are conducting work with a similar mindset; working with people of various ages to develop that evident potential and give candidates that much needed chance. And that’s all it takes. So, a big thank you to all the organizations out there working today to fill that skills gap.

No one enters their work at the height of their powers, especially the 18-24 year olds. As much as I’d like to be the Fountain of Knowledge at 25, I and many others who have been in my (figurative) shoes have a long way to go.

But it’s all about tapping into the potential. Talent isn’t just found, it’s also nurtured.

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