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  • NEXT STEPS FOR IMPROVEMENT Identifying the Gaps Between Education and Employability in Ontario High Schools

    A whitepaper by the Human Resources Professionals AssociationMay, 2017

  • 2 N E X T S T E P S F O R I M P R O V E M E N TI D E N T I F Y I N G T H E G A P S B E T W E E N E D U C AT I O N A N D E M P L O YA B I L I T Y I N O N TA R I O H I G H S C H O O L

  • Table of Contents 1. Introduction 5

    2. Is there a gap? 6

    3. What skills are missing? 8

    4. Ontarios Secondary Education System 12

    5. What Action Have Employers Taken? 14

    6. What Can Government Do? 16

    7. Conclusion 20

    8. Endnotes 22

    NEXT STEPS FOR IMPROVEMENTIdentifying the Gaps Between Education and Employability in Ontario High Schools

  • 4 N E X T S T E P S F O R I M P R O V E M E N TI D E N T I F Y I N G T H E G A P S B E T W E E N E D U C AT I O N A N D E M P L O YA B I L I T Y I N O N TA R I O H I G H S C H O O L

    Introduction01

  • 5N E X T S T E P S F O R I M P R O V E M E N TI D E N T I F Y I N G T H E G A P S B E T W E E N E D U C AT I O N A N D E M P L O YA B I L I T Y I N O N TA R I O H I G H S C H O O L

    The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) undertook to identify whether there is a skills gap in Ontario, and if so, what particular skills are missing. Through its own unique research, the HRPA has found that various soft skills are missing from the skillset of entry-level workers today, not the hard skills that are easiest for employers to teach.

    The development of soft skills continues to be a focus of Ontarios high school curriculum. These skills have been a measurable outcome on report cards since 1998, and are critical to building a competitive workforce for the 21st century. Without a strong foundation of soft skills developed in high school, students have challenges that progress through higher levels of learning and into the workforce.

    With this in mind, this paper explores whether gaps between the current Ontario high school curriculum and employability may be a root cause of this skills challenge, and whether students are being taught the way employers need them to be taught. It provides quantitative evidence directly from employers that a soft skills gap does indeed exist.

    Based on this discovery, the paper makes a series of recommendations on how this soft skill gap can be closed.

    These recommendations are focused in two key areas: The need for experiential learning; and, The need to work with industry.

    The recommendations laid out below are based upon a detailed survey of 633 HRPA members conducted online from March 26 to April 5 2017, as well as a scan of different studies and reports from around the world.

    Employers continue to voice concerns that new graduates entering the workforce are lacking the core skills required to take on entry-level jobs. This skills gap directly impacts productivity and creates a competitive challenge in todays global economy. When workers are not able to do the jobs they are hired for, businesses must train them or hope they learn on the job. This takes time, energy and resources, and can impact the economy.

    Problem solving

    62%

    THE SKILLS GAP

    of HRPA survey respondents say new hires are NOT prepared

    42%

    Interpersonal/teamwork

    Attention to detail

    Schools Local Business

    Make experiential learning mandatory

    Encourage employers

    Explore the Swiss Model

    Which skills are missing?

    48%56%of HRPA survey respondents say these skills are missing

    RECOMMENDATIONS

    Experiential Learning

    Work with Industry

  • 6 N E X T S T E P S F O R I M P R O V E M E N TI D E N T I F Y I N G T H E G A P S B E T W E E N E D U C AT I O N A N D E M P L O YA B I L I T Y I N O N TA R I O H I G H S C H O O L

    Is There a Gap?02

  • 7N E X T S T E P S F O R I M P R O V E M E N TI D E N T I F Y I N G T H E G A P S B E T W E E N E D U C AT I O N A N D E M P L O YA B I L I T Y I N O N TA R I O H I G H S C H O O L

    According to human resource professionals, many entry-level workers are not prepared. The HRPA surveyed its members and found that of those with an opinion, 58.1 per cent of respondents said that entry-level hires within the past year have been sufficiently prepared to do the jobs they have been hired for by their pre-hire education and/or training, while 41.2 per cent said they were not.

    NOT HAVING ENOUGH EDUCATION ISNT THE PROBLEM. Ontario students have the highest proportion of post-secondary attainment amongst all OECD countries.iii This is a significant achievement, but at the same time, may help to demonstrate the problem. According to a study by Dr. Rick Miner at Miner Management Consultants, many students are earning multiple post-secondary degrees, certificates or diplomas in an attempt to gain the skills necessary to get a job.iv As students graduate different post-secondary programs, they continue to be left wanting in terms of soft skills. Similar findings come out of the United States.

    A recent study by Accenture Strategy found that 51 per cent of those who graduated in the United States in the last two years believed they were underemployed.v Meanwhile, a Payscale study found that 50 per cent of hiring managers believed recent grads were either minimally or unprepared for their jobs. This data helps demonstrate that entry-level workers lack the skills that jobs and managers require.vi

    Are students properly prepared for their entry-level jobs? In the United States, a recent survey of almost 64,000 hiring managers found that only half of managers felt recent graduates were prepared for their entry-level jobi. Research conducted by YouGov in the United Kingdom found that of the 635 employers they surveyed, over half reported that either none or few of their entry-level workers were work ready.ii Unfortunately, Ontario is not sheltered from this issue.

    Indeed, the HRPA asked survey respondents what level of education their entry-level hires typically have, and a full 63.6 per cent said post-secondary graduates, while another 14 per cent said they were still in their post-secondary education.

    So with almost 1/3 of students ill prepared for their entry-level jobs, while more than 3/4 of them are in the process or have already obtained a post-secondary degree, the question is, what skills are missing? Evidence shows that post-secondary graduates are going on to do further degrees, but will this additional education help them with the skillsets they are lacking, or can the current system be reformed to help fill in the gap earlier?

    Would you agree or disagree with the following statement:

    Entry-level workers we have hired within the past

    they were hired for.

    Q:

    Agree Disgree

    58% 42%

    PREPARED NOT PREPARED

    Would you agree or disagree with the following statement:

    Entry-level workers we have hired within the past

    they were hired for.

    Q:

    Agree Disgree

    58% 42%

    PREPARED NOT PREPARED

  • 8 N E X T S T E P S F O R I M P R O V E M E N TI D E N T I F Y I N G T H E G A P S B E T W E E N E D U C AT I O N A N D E M P L O YA B I L I T Y I N O N TA R I O H I G H S C H O O L

    03What Skills are Missing

  • 9N E X T S T E P S F O R I M P R O V E M E N TI D E N T I F Y I N G T H E G A P S B E T W E E N E D U C AT I O N A N D E M P L O YA B I L I T Y I N O N TA R I O H I G H S C H O O L

    REQUIRED HARD SKILLS Hard skills are tangible, easily identifiable, and can be improved throughout life. They are also the skills that are the most easily taught by employers.

    The HRPA surveyed its members to gauge which hard skills are the most indicative of success in their entry-level positions, and found there was a heavy emphasis towards communications skills. The top three hard skills selected by respondents were oral communication (77.3 per cent), writing proficiency (62.5 per cent), and database usage/management (30 per cent). Other hard skills that were highlighted in the survey were heavily focused around specific industry needs, as well a technical familiarity with Microsoft Office software.

    Given this data, it is clear that strong communications skills are paramount to success in todays workforce.

    THE SKILLS REQUIRED TO SUCCEED IN TODAYS JOB MARKET COME IN TWO MAIN CATEGORIES: hard skills, which are tangible, teachable skills such as typing and reading, and soft skills, which are less tangible, and more personality-based such as listening, or getting along with others.vii In addition, a literature review by the Higher Education Council of Ontario reveals an experience gap where workers are lacking skills they would gain through experience on the job.viii These sets of skills are critically important components of a well-rounded worker, and no one set of skills is superior to another in todays modern economy. In fact, a study by CareerBuilder that surveyed over 2,000 human resource professionals found that a full 77 per cent of respondents rate hard and soft skills as equally as important.ix Given this, it is important to understand which sets of skills are required to succeed in entry-level jobs.

    REQUIRED SOFT SKILLS Soft skills are much more difficult to teach, especially as students get older. They are personal and are not easily taught in the workplace.

    HRPA survey respondents were asked to list the three most important soft skills required to succeed in their entry-level jobs. Here too there was a clear distinction. Interpersonal skills/teamwork was the most selected skill, at 70.1 per cent, attention to detail was the second most chosen skill at 61.7 per cent and problem solving was the third most selected with 60 per cent.

    MISSING SKI