Workforce participation, Training for the long term unemployed and the needs of industry.
October 25, 2013 2 Comments
I attended a very interesting breakfast earlier in the week, (thanks to the wonderful people at Busy@work) where the central topic of discussion was around the subject of how to better unemployed and underemployed people with industry needs in order to facilitate meaningful return to employment. Aside from a range of other issues that were discussed one thing that was raised a number of times was the gap between the skill level of, in particular long-term unemployed, and to be even more particular long-term unemployed youth, and the skill needs of industry and business.
So I got to thinking what are those basic skills that employers, large or small, need job seekers, particularly those coming from medium to long-term unemployment to have, in order for the employer to feel comfortable employing them initially and to retain them. so I have come up with a list of what I think those really, really basic skills are, so here goes:
- Punctuality – The ability to be at work and ready to start work, at the time their day/shift/whatever begins. I was always taught when I was young and in my first couple of jobs, both when I was at high school and in the workforce, that you should be there 10-15 minutes before your starting time so that you were ready and able to start work on time.
- Appropriate clothing and accessory choices – All work places have rules and expectations, some safety related, some organisational and culturally related. Insisting that you wear a long sleeve shirt, that your uniform is clean and or ironed, that you removed some of your piercings, are not unreasonable requests. when I was in the police force in the very early days of my career (it was my first job) our Senior Sargent used to check our uniforms, shoes etc, to make sure that we looked professional and well turned out before we went out in public, representing the organisation.
- Basic maths – If you cant figure out that $1.60 is the out of $10.00 when I purchase an $8.40 item, without the use of a cash register or calculator, then you probably shouldn’t be working in a role that requires basic maths, and it shouldn’t be up to an employer to give you training in basic maths.
- Basic appropriate communication/language skills – I am not suggesting that new job seekers or those returning from long-term unemployment need to have the communications skills of senior executive or master facilitator, but they do need to be able to talk to customers, in a polite, respectful, understandable manner.
- Basic customer service skills – I don’t care what job you are in, you have customers, they might be internal or external, but you have them, everyone needs to have some level of customer service skills, even if it is don’t swear at the customer when they ask you a question, because it drags you away from your txt/facebook conversation.
- Basic understanding of business – Really all I am saying here is understand that a business is not going to change its policy on facial piercing, simply because it is your preference to have a three-inch, pointed, metal stud protruding from the center of your forehead. It is an understanding that they work for someone else and that working there comes with a set of rules and expectations,both from the business and from the clients of the business.
Now certainly there are going to be roles out there that are appropriate for the groups of people that I am talking about here that require, different or higher levels of skills to the ones listed, but for most entry-level positions, having these six basic skills, place those candidates head and shoulders above all of the others.
How do we give youth, long-term unemployed and other groups, these skills. Is it something that young people should have been taught at school, (particularly maths and communications), or come from parents and role models (punctuality and politeness), some of it should and for those that have it, it probably has. Unfortunately though, for some long-term unemployed, whether they are in the youth demographic or not, even if they did have these skills at some point (and a lot of them probably didn’t), they have dissipated with lack of use over time.
The bigger issue for me, (and this seemed to be a bit of a theme at the breakfast) is how do we teach these people these skills. In Australia we have government-funded organisations, whose roll it is to assist people with entering or reentering the workforce, particularly those who have been unemployed for a significant period of time, but still we seem to have this situation where candidates turn up for interviews and ongoing employment without even the basic skills i have listed and then we wonder why business and employers either don’ take them on in the first place or only retain them for a short period of time.
I would really like to hear what people think, both about my basics skills list and any ideas about how we might better be able to increase these skills in the people that need them most.