Employability Skills – are they becoming extinct?



More and more employers want people with employability skills. Less and less job seekers seem to have employability skills. Where is the disconnect?

By employability skills I mean the skills and attributes, the values and personal qualities an individual has to offer an employer. The skills and attributes that help a person to succeed in a job; to adjust and respond to the ever-changing world of work.

They are things like:

·         Communication Skills ·         Attention to detail
·         Personal presentation ·         Resilience
·         Motivation ·         Positive attitude
·         Initiative ·         Decision making skills
·         Problem solving ·         Time management
·         Listening ·         Pride and care in your work
·         Team work ·         Organisational skills
·         Following instruction ·         Accountability


The feedback I hear regularly from employers is that it’s these employability skills that determine if a job seeker gets the job. Or it’s the reason an employee isn’t working out in their role. I often hear “they just can’t communicate with our customers” or “they lack motivation and always have a negative attitude” or “they just don’t listen and can’t follow instruction.”

It’s not often that the reason an employee is not working out is because they lack a qualification, or experience, or knowledge. These are the easier things to assess at a job interview. An employee with the right employability skills will undertake the qualification, they’ll go above and beyond to get the experience and build on their knowledge.

If employers want these skills and job seekers aren’t demonstrating these skills where are we going wrong?

Is teaching employability skills the responsibility of the parent or primary carer? What role does Primary School and Secondary School play in teaching employability skills? Should all university qualifications have a mandatory Employability Skills subject? What role does business have in teaching employability skills?

I attended the Ballarat HR Industry Chat facilitated by Commerce Ballarat earlier this week and as the discussion turned to employability skills these were the questions running through my mind. From the comments in the room, Employability Skills are more sought after that ever by employers.

My perspective is that when it comes to Employability Skills the gap between employer expectations and what an employee has to offer continues to widen. I experience it every day when interviewing job seekers. Their lack of initiative when researching the company the job is with. The poor personal presentation they have when turning up for an interview in jeans and thongs for a corporate office job. The inability to follow instructions when I ask the job seeker to get back to me with referee details or to complete some skills testing. The question for me then is do they really even want the job or do they just not understand the importance of demonstrating these employability skills?

My understanding and experience is that secondary schools touch on teaching these skills as do some University courses but I think it’s time we all did more to help educate our future generation of employees about how important employability skills really are in the world of work.

We can’t just leave it to the Schools and Universities though. As businesses we too can play a role in teaching employability skills. Have you thought about:

  • Taking on work experience students
  • Having university students come and undertake their workplace integrated learning
  • Internships
  • Employing secondary students for part time work to give them a foot in the door

If you are thinking we don’t have time to have a work experience student or we won’t get an intern – it will be quicker for me to put the time aside to work on that project; you are not alone. However, it is these experiences that I see make a real difference. There is no better experience than on the job learning. When interviewing job seekers you can always tell the ones that have worked part time jobs throughout their secondary school years and during university studies. Their employability skills always far exceed those who haven’t gained that real workplace experience.

As technology influences the future of work and jobs like checkout operators diminish, it will be more important than ever for other workplaces to step up and provide opportunities for people to develop their employability skills. If we are to reduce the employability skills divide we need to take a multi-faceted approach; it starts at home, needs to have stronger emphasis and focus at secondary school and through university studies and the business world need to get involved and help create the opportunities for these skills to be developed.



Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au or by following Angela on LinkedIn.




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