Improving your chances - employability

What does employability mean?

Some of the facts listed below may seem obvious. We know that the level of competition today means that employers can choose from many applicants. People who can show that they have employability skills are getting the jobs!

Employers need staff who will come to work regularly, on time and work hard. They need people who can work in a team and get on with all types of customers and clients. They also need workers who are responsible and are willing to learn. Very few jobs today can be done without using some form of technology. This means that IT and basic number skills are also seen as very useful.

Yes – employers need people who can do a specific job of work and that work may require the worker to have special qualifications, experience and skills. But they also need people who can fit in to their organisation and help the company succeed. Sometimes employability skills are called key skills or basic skills.

A list of basic employability skills:

Improving your chances of employability

How do I get these skills?

Take a long hard look at what you already do because the good news is that you could well have some of these skills already. The ‘even better’ news is that you can do something yourself to develop these skills further.  You already know that the best way to get good at something is practice. The same applies to employability skills. Your approach to improving your skills might need to be different depending on your circumstances.

  • Are you in education (school, college or university)?
    If your course offers any opportunity to get any experience outside the classroom – take it! This might include a work placement or a work project. Some courses include visits and guest speakers. Don’t miss out – go along and get involved. Ask questions, look up the company, talk to employees. If there is any opportunity to work with customers – do it!
    Are there things going on in your school, college or university other than lessons or lectures? School college or universities offer some of the best chances to do out of the classroom activity. You will definitely find something going on. There might be a sport club, fund raising activities or voluntary work placements. Find out and get involved.
  • Are you seeking work?
    You may already have work experience from previous employment. Being unemployed for a long period of time can be a very difficult time in your life. Employability for you will involve keeping your employability skills up to date and staying motivated. Getting involved in community activities, courses, or voluntary work can help with both these things. To find out more about local courses you can use our Course search tool. For voluntary work in Wales check out opportunities on Volunteering Wales.

"You should take all your activities into account," says Ali Moran, an HR consultant at Workplace Law Group. "For example, babysitting shows a responsible attitude, reliability and trustworthiness. Being in sports clubs could demonstrate leadership, organisation and being a team player," she says.

But don't panic if sport or babysitting's not your thing, the good news is that education providers are waking up to the need to teach professional skills. Some offer modules and schemes, such as Liverpool John Moores University's World of Work programme, and Glasgow Caledonian University's work-based learning project, Real WoRLD.

Will work experience help me?

Work experience is highly valued by employers. It shows enthusiasm, is a great way to investigate potential career choices, and you may get a good reference out of it, too.

"You need to do extra things to stand out," says Claire. "Try to get a summer work placement - even if it's just for two weeks - it can help you plan where you'd like your career to go."

You need to think about what makes you stand out from other people.

The National Council for Work Experience issues a quality mark to employers who have shown they meet a national standard for providing work experience, and has a list of accredited companies. The Government has also just launched a new scheme, the Talent Pool, to match new graduates with short internships.

Vicki Martin, a 22-year-old job coach, chose to get work experience in film while studying at uni. "Work experience makes you stand on your own two feet," she says. "I helped with community-based projects and got the opportunity to talk to many different kinds of people, which is what I do now - supporting people with learning difficulties in their workplaces."


What about voluntary work?

Doing voluntary work will also enhance your CV. "It shows initiative and a willingness to get involved," says Ali. A good place to start is youth volunteering charity V, which focuses on encouraging 16 to 25-year-olds to volunteer. You can search for opportunities near where you live, or even apply for cash to start your own project.

You could also look into gap year schemes, such as The Year In Industry (YINI), which finds paid placements for university students before or during their degrees.

What if I want to earn while I learn?

Apprenticeships offer work-based learning combined with off-the-job training and are a good option for those wanting more employability experience. Young Apprentice of the Year 2009, 16-year-old Tashi French, became an apprentice while taking her GCSEs. "It boosted my confidence because you meet new people from different schools and you're in a new environment," she explains. "It's an adult environment, so you have to change the way you act."

Skills employers want

Find out what skills employers want and how to gain these skills

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