Schools failing to prepare kids for world of work: report

Herald file photo.

A new report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) says schools have to do a better job teaching students the “soft skills” such as professionalism or communication skills that small business employers need.

The report, titled Hire Education, connecting youth and small businesses for the jobs of today, was released Thursday. It explored how educational institutions, governments, the business community and youth can work to bridge the gap between higher-than-ever vacancy rates in small businesses and high youth unemployment rates.

The report cites Statistics Canada data showing the national unemployment rate among 20-24-year-olds almost double the general population, while the 15-19-year-old unemployment rate triple that of those over age 24.

“These numbers indicate that there remain significant issues between connecting youth to available jobs, particularly to those in small- and medium-sized enterprises,” the report said.Educa

“CFIB research has found that Canada’s job vacancy rate for small businesses rose to 3.1 per cent during the second quarter of 2018, a  new high since CFIB began recording this data in 2014.”

The report provided recommendations for youth, businesses, governments and the education system to better link job seekers with the skills they need to fill these vacancies.

“While governments like to talk about preparing youth for the ‘jobs of tomorrow,’ the reality is small businesses need workers for the jobs of today,” the report said.

“It is essential that youth are being taught the skills that will connect them with these employment opportunities.”

Findings from the report, which surveyed employers and gathered data through a Maru/Matchbox public opinion poll of 513 randomly-selected Canadians aged 15-17, indicated a possible disconnect between employers were looking for and recruitment methods they used with what youth were learning and how they were looking for work.

For example, businesses surveyed cited the leading barriers to hiring youth as general motivation and attitude of youth, minimum wage increases, poaching/no guarantee they will stick around, cost of training, productivity levels and increasing payroll costs. The business owners also ranked motivation and attitude, communication skills, professionalism, literacy and problem-solving skills far higher than work experience, educational attainment and industry-specific knowledge and experience.

In terms of recruitment methods, the data showed that employers ranked referrals higher than online job banks, also ranking unsolicited applications, social media and work placements as leading ways to attract youth to jobs in their business.

Youth ranked online higher than referrals, though they also ranked work placements and social media high. Business owners ranked unsolicited applications much higher than youth did, while youth ranked help wanted signs or in-person visits and job fairs far higher than employers did.

As far as education goes, the survey found that colleges were the best at preparing youth for the world of work, followed by universities, private training institutes and high schools. The report also found more work still has to be done to encourage youth to consider a career in the trades. Fifty-six per cent of Saskatchewan employers said they weren’t satisfied with how high schools prepare young people for employment.

“The research shows there is a clear gap between what employers need and the skills our education institutions emphasize,” said CFIB vice-president, prairie and agri-business Marilyn Braun-Pollon.

“Our research really does show that small business owners aren’t don’t feel that youth are adequately prepared for the jobs of today.”

The report recommended that the government do more to provide tax relief or other financial incentives to companies that hire students in a co-op or internship situation outside of the summer months, to help offset some of the costs in that area.

It also advised that educational institutions, whether they be high schools, colleges or universities, work closely with the business community to ensure curriculum teaches those “soft skills” businesses need. It also encouraged high schools to emphasize the importance and value of a career in the trades, as businesses in those sectors typically have a high vacancy rate.

“Small businesses are often the first place that you’d find a job and therefore they’re left to teach young people you know those important skills you know about customer service or professionalism or accountability,” Braun-Pollan said.

“I think much of the issue that we find that disconnect that we find we can’t people it’s that they are largely unaware of the expectations and the expectations and the needs of employers. And I think that’s stemming from the education system not adequately preparing them for the workforce. We’ve got some work to do there to narrow the gap.”

Recommendations

High schools

 Place more focus on soft skills and workplace literacy in high school curriculums to better prepare youth for the workplace

Create more partnerships with the business community to better ensure the skills being taught are relevant to the workplace

Provide more networking opportunities and access to local small business owners to students in the classroom

Better emphasize the importance and the value of a career in the skilled trades so that a greater number of students consider it as a viable career option

 

Post-secondary

Ensure better access to post-secondary Work Integrated Learning (WIL) programs for small businesses by expanding programs to more sectors and outside urban centres

Allocate a larger number of WIL positions to smaller companies

Ensure better communication and outreach to local small businesses to increase their involvement in WIL opportunities

Put a greater focus on career development and counselling by teaching skills such as resume writing, networking and interviewing

Place a greater emphasis on teaching practical skills development and their application in the workplace

 

Government

Implement measures to reduce the costs of hiring and training youth, such as an EI holiday for hiring youth, or a training tax credit that recognizes informal training.

Implement measures to offset the impacts of the upcoming CPP/QPP increases, such as a permanent lower EI rate for small business

Offer a tax credit to companies that hire students in a WIL placement, such as a co-op program or internship

Enhance the accessibility of government training programs and grants, such as the Canada Job Grant, buy recognizing informal training and including soft skills

Expand the availability of the Canada Summer Job grant to other times of the year, and extend the application period so that more youth and small businesses are able to apply.

Increate targeted investments into rural areas to provide better infrastructure (broadband) to better support private investment and job creation

Measure and annually report on the outcomes of government youth hiring programs so training funds are allocated to programs with a track record of connecting youth with jobs

Create working groups with governments, education professionals, small business owners and other employers to provide feedback on key elements that could be included in high school and post-secondary curriculums to better ensure youth are job-ready

Better communicate with small business owners on government programs that may be able to help offset the cots of hiring and training youth

Focus some post-secondary education funding on programs linked to the employment market

Ensure better access to the federal Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit, as well as supports for apprentices themselves, by increasing awareness and expanding the list of Red Seal trades to include a broader group of skilled trades such as computer technicians, locksmiths, tailors, small equipment mechanics and dressmakers

 

Small business

Familiarize yourself with various government grants, both federal and provincial, that can help offset training costs, such as the Canada Job Grant.

Apply early for programs such as the Canada Summer Jobs Grant to help with the cost of hiring students

Reach out to your local high school, college or university to see if they offer work-integrated learning opportunities to their students

Be open-minded when hiring youth. Although there are a few bad apples, young workers can often bring new ideas and energy to your business

Be patient with hiring and training young people – they may need more time to adjust to your work environment than more experienced employees

Consider creative ways to attract young people such as offering a bursary to students at your local college to help with their education costs while they work with you as a way to attract and retain young workers

 

Youth

Show up on time to interviews or when meeting potential employers, and do not bring friends or parents along — you are the one applying for the job

Consider how small businesses go about finding their employees and adjust your search methods accordingly

Show professionalism and a positive attitude at work

Be open to job opportunities that may not be in the field you had in mind. These experiences are still valuable and can help you gain other skills useful for your career down the road

Consider moving to a different city or province that may offer more job opportunities that you may be looking for.