Young people need better work ethic, employers say

Core skills must be improved, but know-how in ICT is a boon, survey finds

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Two-thirds of employers in Scotland are not convinced that young people have the positive attitude required in the workplace, a survey has shown.

The new Skills Pulse Survey, carried out by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) with support from Skills Development Scotland (SDS), showed that only 35 per cent of employers agreed that most young people today had a positive work ethic; 34 per cent disagreed and 31 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed.

But there was less ambiguity about the contribution young people could make to an organisation. Two-thirds of employers questioned said that young people were bringing new ICT capability to their business.

"The survey highlights the value young people bring to the workplace, most notably in ICT," said David Cameron, head of career management skills at SDS.

Crucially, almost 40 per cent of employers told the SCDI that they expected to take on staff over the next year - up from 27 per cent six months ago. This could increase the chances of young Scots leaving education or training finding work.

The employers also made recommendations to improve the education and training system. They called for increased engagement between learning providers and industry to ensure that employers' needs can be met, and a stronger focus on literacy, numeracy and other core skills. They also said more work placements would add value to the Scottish system.

Some two-thirds of them agreed that there was a need for greater focus on subjects in science, technology, engineering and maths across the education and training system, while 58 per cent of employers that had a vacancy in the past 12 months felt that more college and university leavers had to be equipped with the skills required to "make an immediate impact on our organisation".

Gareth Williams, head of policy at the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, said: "Our industry members tell us that Scotland needs to continue to raise its game with STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects if it is to support growth in key sectors by meeting their demand for skilled and innovative people.

"That is why the work which the Scottish government's STEMEC group is currently taking forward on strengthening primary school science, initial teacher education, continuing professional development and interdisciplinarity is important, and why SCDI continues to encourage employer and employee engagement with schools through our expanding network of young engineers and science clubs in more than 700 schools around Scotland."

About a quarter of employers involved in apprenticeships did not feel that the current recruitment process was easy to navigate. But Mr Cameron said the survey endorsed SDS's approach to Modern Apprenticeships, as most employers found the recruitment process easy to navigate. But he said: "We are constantly working to better meet the evolving needs of business."

Mr Cameron added: "The responses also endorse the approach we are taking in helping young people to decide about their careers - for example, provides detailed information on the opportunities available in Scotland's key industry sectors. Young people interested in the STEM subjects could find out about the full range of jobs which are opening up to them in Scotland on the website."


  • Almost three in five (59%) employers surveyed found some of their vacancies hard to fill.
  • 18 per cent said this was attributable to the quality of applicants.
  • 58 per cent of all employers surveyed said they had a formal plan to address their future skills needs.
  • 35 per cent agreed that young people had a positive work ethic.
  • 61 per cent recognised the "distinctive contribution of young employees in terms of their ICT capabilities".
    • Photo credit: Getty

      Original headline: Young people need a better work ethic, employers claim

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