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The bigger picture – wider skills can bring much to your business.

Yee Group Limited

Today there are different routes out there to achieve those skills and expertise.

When you look at a prospective employee’s CV prior to their interview, do you pay much attention to their skills and experience beyond their academic achievements?

Increasingly employers are doing just that, having taken note on the achievements of their other employees who have progressed and made successful careers.

As a client recently told me, ‘We will be looking more widely at all-round experience and the ability to handle situations beyond pure academic achievement’.

‘The way that businesses are now developing their processes and practices mean that a wider skills base is even more critical. New technologies, their integration and their application are significantly changing how businesses operate. We need skilled, flexible staff to work in these changing environments’.   

Of course, good basic education remains important in the second decade of the 21st Century. The Government’s recent changes in the GCSE examinations for all school-leavers to re-sit their examinations, (if they have failed to achieve Grade C in both Mathematics and English), are a welcome addition.

Likewise students’ achievements in higher education are still important. But having all-round capabilities and experience in similar measures provides added advantages to a young person’s career; and, I believe to their employability.

This fact was recently highlighted when I discovered that other local employers, who entered the recent Burton Mail Business Awards, confirmed their selecting of new employees on the basis of attitude, as well as their achievements at school, college or university.

These businesses have proved that their companies can provide the necessary training. They are achieving training to the standards at and often above what they require. For these business owners, the right mind-set and approach by these young people are far more important.

It thus came as less of a surprise when I discovered that Amey Construction, for example, guarantees interviews to candidates who meet 70% of the published job criteria, and additionally have achieved a Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Award – at Gold, Silver or Bronze level.

The DofE is celebrating its Diamond Jubilee this year. It is encouraging youngsters to engage in new challenges. This shows how activities outside of school or college can be used to build additional skills. This experience can add to youngsters’ appreciation and understanding. Then, later it can be translated into their working lives.

I believe that it assists them in many unseen ways in their careers. They can draw on that experience in ways that may not be immediately apparent, but will bear fruit in the future. From our business at Yee Group, we have the examples to show that this wider experience provides solid foundations on which to build strong individual and team-working employees.

My company has been an active sponsor of Young Enterprise (YE) for the last two years with John Taylor High School, and for 2016/2017, The Paulet School. The 12-month YE programme effectively simulates running a business from setting it up, choosing the product or service to create and then to sell to customers. YE continues right through to the disposal of the company. It is another great experience that young people can have at school or college.

Students tell me that YE is far more realistic to the actual business environment that many would at first thought. Learning by experience has always proven to be a good route. YE gives that in bucket loads from my understanding and from our close involvement with these local schools. The real proof is that many of the winning teams go on to make their product or service into a reality. Several have established their own fledging companies, immediately on leaving school. In fact some choose this route rather than go to University and run up large debts.

The importance and the beneficial impact of the YE, and similar schemes, were highlighted during the Party Conference Season. The recent speech by Education Secretary of State, Justin Greening, at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham indicated that the Government will be working with Young Enterprise in the new Opportunity Areas has provided a significant boost to the role of YE.

It has shed fresh light on what the programme has to offer to young people in terms of gaining new skills. Simultaneously, it will bring YE and the breadth of experience that the programme offers to a wider audience initially in the selected Opportunity Areas that were announced.

Investigating the wider skills base of employees is already receiving greater attention. This has been brought to a head in the face of the dwindling pool of potential staff. It is receiving further attention as a result of the whole array of talents and abilities that many businesses now require.

On the other side of the coin, the new Millennial Generation will be seeking new opportunities within their chosen companies. Critically, we cannot overlook the young employee’s expectations from their perspective. We need to be prepared to provide them with suitable opportunities. This may not be the simple task that some have been thinking.

It will require what I can best call ‘a meeting of minds’ by employers and by the young employees. We are currently in a major transitional stage between how a business can continue to grow; and, what education is delivering in terms of meeting the expectations of this country, its businesses and its young people.

This is not to say that everything is wrong; and to throw up one’s arms in dismay; but rather to point out these important issues. We need to investigate what can be adapted and modified to meet the goals of the business community and our education establishments to deliver ‘qualified young people’.

Just one quick comparison will highlight the issues. It is clear that many who leave school or college are still unaware of what working in a business is really like. Those of us already in business can recognise the differences. However, it’s a big challenge for young people. Many really don’t understand that environment; and neither are they adequately prepared.

This is where YE, for example, plays an important role in providing examples for Years 12 and 13 make their transition into the working environment. Participants in the 12-month programme are certainly better equipped to meet the pressures and stresses of the work-place. It applies whether they start work immediately from school; or begin later, after their higher education.

At Yee Group, we have been attending events at schools to promote working within small businesses. Additionally, we have been assisting in the important process of letting young people know more about the working environment.

One student at Robert Sutton College told us that ‘As young people we have got to find out directly ourselves what working in business really involves.

‘From these presentations, we came away with a much better understanding on how to make a successful transition into the working environment. Having made that progress and developed our wider skills base we will all have significant advantages now and in the future’.

It has been a two-way learning curve for both parties.

This has particularly been in the context of expectations and outcomes. These opportunities of meeting the students and providing them with more background information and responding to their challenging questions have been inspirational. I believe that Yee Group and other businesses have begun the increasingly vital process of providing them with more solid information in respect of their careers.

Simon Chapman is President of the Burton and District Chamber of Commerce and Managing Director of Yee Group Ltd a leading multi discipline contractor serving the whole of the Midlands region.

Yee Group Ltd celebrated 30 years of engineering excellence in 2015 - a significant milestone for this award winning contractor headquartered in Burton upon Trent. 

The company is a multi-discipline contractor offering the services required by the managers of industrial, commercial educational and public premises.  Yee Group Ltd offer a range of specialised services in three broad business streams: SAFETY, SPACE & TAILORED SOLUTIONS.