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Ask James Caan – Issue 108

Written by Kimberley Startup | August 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

Dear member,

Last week, the wait for tens of thousands of students was over when they found out their A-level results. For many the natural progression will be university, however, the trend is now shifting, with more and more opting to go straight into workplace.

For example, according to the BBC; PriceWaterCoopers (PwC), which runs a recruitment scheme that accepts school leavers, has seen interest increase fivefold since the start of the economic downturn in 2007.

Reasons for this include, rising university fees, economic forecasts and graduate unemployment. With an increase in school leavers deciding, now, what they want to do for their future career, are employers adjusting accordingly to this change?

Last week I received letters enquiring about the benefits, and possible drawbacks, of hiring this year’s influx of school leavers seeking employment. One business owner who contacted me asked:

‘You read all of these negative statistics – what I want to know is whether there is any merit in employing someone who is fresh out of college?’

Well, the short answer is yes, although a lot of it depends on the role and the company. I personally believe, though, that many employers are missing a trick when it comes to hiring school leavers.

There are many successful business owners that chose not to take the path of higher education. Take me, for example. I left school at the age of 16 with no qualifications and just a determination to succeed. My good fortune in business came, partly, because I was young and uninhibited. I made decisions that were free of ingrained scepticism and it paid off, 14 years later I sold my company for £25 million.

On the whole, you can guarantee that school leavers will bring energy and enthusiasm to a role. Most will be grateful for the opportunity to be training and working at the same time and excited by the prospect of earning a proper wage.

As a business, with effective induction programmes and training in place, you will be able to mould a young employer into exactly what the company needs. They are also more likely to see their position within your organisation as a career path, as opposed to a stepping stone, which is beneficial for your company’s retention rate.

So what do you look for in a school leaver’s CV? Firstly, there should be evidence that, as a student, they had a high attendance. This is fundamental, as it is likely that if they were poor at showing up to school, they will quickly grow tired of turning up to work.

A second important factor to bear in mind is how much they got involved with extra-curricular activities. Things, such as, Ten Tor’s and sporting activities immediately demonstrate a sense of diligence and dedication – both valuable assets in the workplace.

Make sure that there is good evidence that they are qualified in areas which are relevant to the role. For example, if you require someone who is IT literate and has competent numeracy skills, then check for high grades in these specific subjects. For added reassurance, why not get them to take an online skills test?

Finally, it is about changing any preconceptions that exist around employing school leavers. The nature of the market means that the number of people choosing to find a job over going to university looks set to rise. Is there a place within your company for a young recruit with a bright working future ahead?


James Caan

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