Revealed – what Mersey employers are looking for from school-leavers

City region firms seek ‘soft skills’ from young people as Liverpool Chamber chief calls for new era of engagement between businesses and schools. Tony McDonough reports

Paul Cherpeau
Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. Picture by Gareth Jones


Liverpool Chamber of Commerce chief executive Paul Cherpeau is calling for a new era of engagement between businesses and schools with employers now putting so-called ‘soft skills’ the top of their agenda.

A survey of Liverpool city region firms shows they now see communication, flexibility and problem-solving as the most important attributes a school leaver needs to be successful in the business world.

The survey, which was conducted in collaboration with Growth Platform – Liverpool city region’s Growth Company and Professional Liverpool found that businesses who were surveyed are looking for interaction with students rather than relying on traditional routes, such as work experience.

Instead responding employers are more likely to take part in careers talks, with mock interviews and contributing to lesson delivery becoming a more significant part of how businesses engage with students, suggesting that this interaction offers meaningful outcomes for all sides of the conversation.

Mr Cherpeau said: “The survey shows that although there is a good level of interaction between businesses and some schools, so much more needs to be done throughout a child’s education, to further engage with potential employers, if we are to fully equip our young people with the skills to succeed in the workforce of the future.”

When asked which they thought were the three most important qualities a school leaver needs to possess in order to be successful in business, the top three were:

  • Communication – 73.97%
  • Flexibility and adaptability – 54.79%
  • Problem solving – 42.47%

The bottom three were:

  • Technical ability – 26.03%
  • Creativity – 20.55%
  • Curiosity – 8.22%

Percentage changes in types of activity by businesses with schools”

  • Contribute to delivery of learning through lesson participation +19.84%
  • Visit schools to talk about careers +18.66%
  • Support the delivery of mock interviews +13.69%
  • Provide work experience to school children -12.30%

To address the skills needs across the city region, Liverpool Chamber is calling for stronger social partnerships between employers, schools, colleges and universities to prepare the next generation for careers in the businesses of tomorrow.

“Schools that plan employer engagement throughout the curriculum will greatly enhance the opportunity to create appropriate and worthwhile encounters for everyone taking part,” added Mr Cherpeau.

“By making those interactions more dynamic, it enhances awareness, opens the minds of students to wider options, and positively impacts on their aspirations.”

The survey also showed some interesting results when it came to the reasons businesses engage with schools and the issues preventing them from doing so. Corporate social responsibility and creating a talent pipeline were the things driving most businesses, while business capacity, time and access to schools were common barriers.

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