As students across the country find out whether they’ve achieved the A-level grades needed to make the leap into University education or employment, questions have been raised regards whether traditional routes into work are actually the best.
Top A level grades, and then top degrees, are generally considered to be the best route into a professional job.
However, Lorna Davidson, Founder and CEO of recruitment specialist, RedWigWam, argues that other factors are important when it comes to a candidate getting the job best suited to them.
She said: “Even if the grades don’t turn out as hoped, it’s far from the disaster it may initially appear to be.” Davidson believes that an increasing number of students are beginning to realise that future employers are not only looking for qualifications but work experience, too.
Samuel Leach, Director at financial firm, Samuel & Co. Trading, adds that academic success is in no way essential for jobseeking and career success. “Mindset is the most important thing,” he explains, “not a piece of paper that tells you if you can or can’t do something.
"Our nation’s young people must have the conviction to go after the careers they want regardless of whether they get the results they wanted.”
According to Tom Hadley, Director of Policy & Professional Services at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), employers are being more flexible around grades. “They’re realising that recruiters aren’t going to be able to find the ‘finished product’. But what they are asking for is to find someone with the right attitude that they can train on the job,” he says.
This focus on the right attitude is something that the REC is keen to filter into education. “When we speak to young people looking for work, they’re a little apprehensive about the pace of change,” Hadley explains. “However, recruiters understand what skills and attitudes are needed to succeed in the future workplace, so there’s a real opportunity to help inspire young people, teach that can-do attitude and boost the growth mindset.”
The numbers also suggest that recruiters may have to stop just looking for certain levels of qualification – especially as uptake for University education is dropping.
According to ITV news, the number of students accepted on to UK degree courses has fallen to 411,860 - down one percent over the last year. Part of the fall in students starting university is due to a smaller population of 18-year-olds across the UK but also the result of less applications.
With other, less expensive paths providing an alternative option, such as the recent investment into Apprenticeships, industry figureheads aren’t concerned about the drop in degree uptake.
And though recruiters might be geared into casting their net a little wider in the hunt for young talent – looking at those who might not have A-Levels of degrees – they might also have to coach young people into being more confident with their results.
With the skills employers need constantly shifting, many 17-19-year-olds don’t feel optimistic about their futures. According to research by the Chartered Institute of Marketing, just half of school leavers (53%) feel optimistic about landing a job they really want, while others believe difficulty achieving the right qualifications (34%), and difficulty developing the right skills (27%) will hinder them.
Clearly a solution is due, as several employers experience similar concerns regarding the skills shortage. Research commissioned in The Open University’s Business Barometer found that 91% of organisations report difficulties in hiring workers with the required skills.
Whilst employers’ focus on education as a requirement is shifting, this does place a responsibility on businesses to provide candidates with training. However, with the Apprenticeship levy coming in this year, there are several other options recruiters can engage school-leavers with.
It just requires better communication. Kirstie Donnelly, Managing Director at City & Guilds and ILM, explains: “It’s essential that young people understand the full range of options ahead of them, which can pave a way into industries including engineering, construction, hospitality, media or the built environment sector.”