ALL TOP ACHIEVERS
ARE LIFE-LONG LEARNERS
LOOKING FOR NEW SKILLS, INSIGHTS AND IDEAS.
IF THEY’RE NOT LEARNING
THEY ’RE NOT GROWING
AND NOT MOVING TOWARD EXCELLENCE
The Employability Skills Challenge:
Research from the Financial Services and Education Sectors
Contents Executive Summary
Executive Summary 2 This report is the result of research into employability skills issues conducted by Scottish Investment
Operations (SIO) and the Financial Services Skills Council (FSSC) 1 in response to feedback from
Introduction 4 employers and formal research from the FSSC, The Skills Bill 2 .
Authors 4 SIO and the FSSC carried out research in two key stages from September 2009 to May 2010. Stage one
Rationale covered employers and recruitment agencies who were interviewed in group and one-to-one settings to
Purpose of Research 5 establish the key issues they faced in recruiting new talent to the financial services sector. Employers
Employability Defined 5 were almost all global organisations responsible for thousands of employees and making a substantial
contribution to Scotland’s economic output 3 .
The second stage of research covered the education sector with The key findings from
Employers and Recruitment Agencies 6 views taken from a sample of schools and universities across employers and agencies
Sector Coverage 6 Scotland in focus group settings to understand their perceptions
highlighted issues with
Employer and Agency Involvement 6 of the financial services sector and its skills requirements. The
the attitudes and
groups of pupils and students were drawn from a broad range
Participating Employers and Recruitment Agencies 6 behaviours of prospective
of disciplines and interests. Universities included traditional and
Participating Schools 7 candidates. The research
new universities. Schools were all secondary schools in a range
Participating Universities 7 of geographical locations. also shows that there
Findings were significant concerns
The key findings from employers and agencies highlighted issues
with the level of numeracy
Financial Services Employers 8 with the attitudes and behaviours of prospective candidates. The
and communication skills
research also shows that there were significant concerns with the
Main Issues 8 within the talent pool.
level of numeracy and communication skills within the talent pool.
Other Issues 9
Recruitment Agencies 10 Attitudinal issues focused on the lack of commitment shown at entry level and the generally poor
The Impact of the Issues to Business 11 attitude of candidates to the working environment. Employers cited many examples often from
interview stage where candidates failed to display a sense of urgency, respect, professionalism and
Schools and Universities 13
commitment. Candidates failed to attend interviews, often without explanation or prior notice. They
The Extent of the Employability Problem & Key Target Groups 14
often worked to minimum standards arriving as late as possible to start and leaving as soon as possible
Solutions 15 at the end of the day. Little attention was given to team goals and the impact of low productivity on the
wider team and department. Employers concluded that candidates exhibited a poor level of
Employers 15 commitment and willingness to go above and beyond. Graduates in particular had a tendency to expect
Recruitment Agencies 17 rapid promotion having failed to prove their worth or add value to the company.
Skills issues centred upon communication skills, both verbal and written, and numeracy. Candidates
Universities 20 regularly did not articulate themselves well and could not be relied upon to communicate with
Next Steps 21 customers and colleagues effectively without additional training to meet the gap. Written
communication skills also featured heavily with employers advising that candidates’ letters showed
Contact Details 22 signs of poor grammar, sentence construction and spelling errors.
Although no statistics were available on the extent of these issues, employers and recruitment agencies
all felt that they had deteriorated over time. The impact of these issues to businesses included extra
training and checking, poor customer experience, poor perception of company and brand and a
potential loss of new business.
1 www.sio.org.uk, www.fssc.org.uk
2 FSSC Skills Bill publications: http://www.fssc.org.uk/403_17.html?i=4
3 Scottish Financial Services Strategy Annual Report 2009: www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/273628/0081786.pdf
Findings from schools and universities highlighted a mainly negative perception of careers in financial
services. Many felt that the work would be boring, desk-bound and repetitive. High levels of stress and
a poor work life balance were also frequently mentioned. It was also clear that the image of the
industry had been impacted by the banking crisis with many commenting on a perceived lack of trust Authors
and ethics within the industry. Alan Thornburrow, Chief Executive of Scottish Investment Operations and Linda Houston, Relationship
Manager Scotland at the Financial Services Skills Council co-managed the project with the backing of
In skills terms, pupils and students tended to point towards the importance of qualifications, the grade Skills Development Scotland who provided funding for administration and secretarial support.
of attainment and work experience when asked what skills and qualities were of most value to
employers. Research indicated that a small proportion of students and pupils were aware of the Scottish Investment Operations (SIO) is a professional body representing investment companies in
employability skills needs of employers and how their own experiences of school and university were Scotland. It works with its member fund management companies and investment banks to support
relevant. This proved to be the exception rather than the rule however as most students and pupils felt and advise them on talent and skills. A key deliverable of SIO is to ensure an ongoing pipeline of highly
under-prepared to enter the world of work. skilled new talent is available for its members. SIO is privately funded by its member companies.
During each stage of this research potential solutions were gathered, a summary of which has been The Financial Services Skills Council (FSSC) is a strategic, independent, employer-led organisation
presented at the end of this document. The next stage of this work is to further develop these ideas in which aims to enhance professionalism and talent for finance, accountancy and financial services
conjunction with any current practice which will help to make a difference. across the nations and regions of the UK. It acts as a link between industry, government and education.
In Scotland the FSSC operates within the Financial Services Skills Gateway which aims to take
It is vital that we can continue to draw upon the best talent available if the long term viability and Scotland’s financial services talent to world class levels.
growth of the sector in Scotland is to be maintained.
SIO and the FSSC embarked upon research into employability skills with the financial services sector
and recruitment companies specialising in the sector following demand from employers to address the
ongoing issues they face in recruiting and retaining new talent. The need was also evident from the
FSSC’s research into skills provision in Scotland; The Skills Bill,
a central theme of which is that employers in Scotland seek “more
It is vital that we can
and better skilled staff at entry level”. Employers frequently cite
continue to draw
employability skills as one of the main barriers in recruiting and
retaining new staff. The main issues centre upon the ability of new upon the best talent
hires to fit into the workplace and make a meaningful contribution available, if the long
to their role, team and company. term viability and
growth of the sector
Financial services is a mobile sector operating and competing in in Scotland is to be
a global environment. Employers in the sector continually reassess
their operations and move functions to the locations that enable
them to complete tasks with a high degree of accuracy and service
within a competitive cost framework. Globalisation has been a major trend within the sector during the
past decade and Scotland has benefited from this by attracting new investors such as Morgan Stanley,
Citi and many other global companies who transfer work to this country. A key determinant in doing so
has been the availability of a qualified workforce within talent pools at school, college, university and
other economic sectors. It is vital that we can continue to draw upon the best talent available if the long
term viability and growth of the sector in Scotland is to be maintained.
SIO and FSSC agreed early in the project that the views of school pupils and university students also be
included to provide a balanced report and ensure a voice was given to the sector in this important piece
Purpose of the research Methodology
For the two strands of research there were two separate purposes:
Employers and Recruitment Agencies
1. For the employers and recruitment agencies the purpose of the research was to:
Employers and agencies from all sub-sectors of the financial services sector were interviewed in
• Identify the work ready skills, behaviours and attitudes currently lacking in the talent pool groups and one-on-one between September and December 2009. The physical location of employers
and prioritise the three most important employability issues that are lacking in applicants was in Scotland however most businesses were global companies headquartered in Scotland or
• Identify the impact of these issues on financial services employers and the industry international businesses with operations here. The study focused on large employers in Scotland who
in Scotland comprise the bulk of employment in this sector, although smaller employers were included. Individual
• Gather ideas on how the issues could be addressed, both by the industry and out with participants were senior recruitment and training professionals who represented a firm-wide view of
the industry the issues. They were able to articulate the thoughts of business units across their organisations and
2. For the university students and school pupils the purpose of the research was to obtain their views on: all had direct experience of the issues under debate.
• A career in financial services
• Their perceptions of working in financial services Sector Coverage
• What’s important to them when deciding on a career The sub-sectors included in the study were banking, investment, insurance and intermediary. Within
• What they think financial services employers are looking for from new entrants banking we included organisations engaged in retail and corporate banking. Within investment we
• How prepared they are for the world of work included wealth management companies, fund managers, investment banks and other specialists
• Suggestions to improve skills in the areas sought by financial services employers providing support to the wholesale investment market such as custodians or trustees. Within insurance
By canvassing the views from both sides of the talent pool we believed that this would provide a better we included companies engaged in life and pensions and home, car and travel insurance. Within
understanding of the issues and clearly identify opportunities for common solutions in both groups. intermediary we included organisations engaged in the provision of advice or services to consumers.
Locations of employers included Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Perth and the travel to work areas
Employability Defined around these cities where employers were also based.
By employability we mean the ability to communicate,
Possessing the ability to communicate, Employer and Agency Involvement
manage information, use numbers, think and
solve problems, demonstrate positive attitudes manage information, use numbers, Prior to the workshops and meetings each employer was asked to complete an online questionnaire to
and behaviours, be responsible, be adaptable, think and solve problems, demonstrate focus attention on the key issues. We then asked employers at the workshops and meetings to identify
learn continuously, work safely, work with others positive attitudes and behaviours, be the issues that caused the greatest impact to their business and at which level it was most prevalent.
and participate in projects and tasks. This is the responsible, be adaptable, learn Participants then focused upon the three largest issues in terms of their impact to their organisations.
definition we have articulated to employers within continuously, work safely, work with Businesses then took part in a debate on possible solutions. Agencies were interviewed one-to-one and
the study and the definition that SIO and FSSC posed the same questions as employers had responded to in the group workshops.
others and participate in projects and
tasks are key.
The following report is the result of all employer and agency interactions.
Participating Employers and Recruitment Agencies
The 24 companies overleaf attended workshops or spoke with the report’s authors one-on-one.
4 recruitment agencies also participated.
Employer Name Primary Sub-Sector
Airdrie Savings Bank Banking Financial Services Employers
Aviva Insurance Main Issues Crucially, employers
Baillie Gifford Investment The key findings of the research centred upon themes; poor
advised that the general
BNY Mellon Investment attitudes and behaviours dominated across all locations as did the work-readiness of new
Barclays Wealth Investment lack of communication skills and numeracy. Employers identified entrants had deteriorated
BlackRock Investment these issues repeatedly in different examples with many of the over time.
BNP Paribas Securities Services Investment same examples being cited by differing employers. Employers
Citi Investment ranked the issues as being most prevalent in school leavers followed by graduates and to a lesser
Clydesdale Bank Banking extent experienced hires. Crucially, employers advised that the general work-readiness of new entrants
Cunningham Lindsey Insurance had deteriorated over time.
Franklin Templeton Investments Investment
HSBC Securities Services Investment 1. General Attitudes and Behaviours
Ignis Asset Management Investment Employers highlighted three key areas where attitudes and behaviours fell short of expectations.
Kwik Fit Insurance Insurance
a. Work Ethic
Lloyds TSB Banking
Businesses cited examples of candidates failing to attend the first day of work, approaching their roles
Mortgages PLC Intermediary
with a poor attitude and generally exhibiting a low work ethic to their daily roles. New employees did
Royal Bank of Scotland Banking
not go above and beyond the minimum requirements of their role. They failed to work effectively within
Scottish Friendly Insurance
their teams, to share responsibility when needed and to work additional hours to satisfy the needs of
Scottish Widows Insurance
the business. They rarely volunteered to take on additional tasks and failed to recognise that such
Standard Life Insurance
behaviours had a positive impact upon their role, team, company and career progression.
Standard Life Investments Investment
Tesco Bank Banking A lack of understanding and experience of the culture and behaviours in the work environment was
Change Recruitment Group Recruitment Agency evident. This included inappropriate work dress, poor time keeping, poor attitude to work, lack of
Hays Recruitment Agency respect for authority, not conducting themselves professionally, poor attendance at work, and a lack
Hudson Recruitment Agency of flexibility on employer requirements. A ‘what’s in it for me culture’ rather than ‘what can I do to
Joslin Rowe Recruitment Agency help the company’ was mentioned in the employer focus groups.
Poor attitudes and behaviours were also displayed when dealing with customers. They failed to
Schools within a range of geographical areas were represented within the study. Pupils were selected appreciate how to treat customers to provide a positive experience.
at random by the schools from S5 and S6 to participate. In total we conducted 3 focus groups which b. Mismatched Expectations
gained opinions from 41 pupils. Employers once again called upon a wide range of examples where candidates sought rapid
progression having failed to prove their worth or add value to the company. There was a clear view that
Universities throughout Scotland were also involved in this research. Students were selected by their
the expectations set at university in particular were unrealistic. Students as a grouping had the highest
careers service and represented a diverse range of degree disciplines such as accounting and finance,
self belief in their own worth but, as was seen elsewhere in the study, they failed to contribute
law, construction, project management and many more. In total we conducted 5 focus groups with
effectively to their employer which hindered opportunities for career progression. Their attitudes were
often displayed as “but I’m a graduate, I should be doing more than this…”. This attitude was not only
Schools and universities were asked a series of open questions around their perceptions of the unhelpful to the team dynamic but it was also felt that they failed to recognise the substantial increase
financial services industry and what skills and competencies were important to employers. They were in new graduates as a percentage of the workforce and the fact that their being a graduate no longer
also asked for their views on what they would like to see more of in terms of links to the world of work. held the advantage that it used to. Employers have come to see the value of a degree as much more
of a commodity however, many stressed that school leavers were just as able as their graduate peers
Participating Schools Participating Universities although it was felt that they lacked maturity at school level for a variety of roles within the industry.
• Dalziel High School, Motherwell • Abertay University, Dundee
• Kinross High School, Kinross • Dundee University, Dundee It should be noted that financial services employers were keen to provide as much progression as they
• Trinity Academy, Edinburgh • Glasgow University, Glasgow could for the best candidates. They sought to provide an engaging experience for all recruits and were
• Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow quick to point out that they rewarded talent effectively and were able to provide additional responsibility,
• Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh global opportunity and long term careers for the best and brightest. However this did not automatically
• Napier University, Edinburgh mean that all graduates earned promotion simply by virtue of having completed a degree programme.
c. Interview Skills 6. Financial Services Sector Awareness
Employers reported that candidates regularly presented for interview without having researched the Although not an employability skill, it was clear that awareness of the sector and general commercial
company properly or having understood its market or some of the challenges it might face. awareness was an issue that featured highly with Glasgow based employers. The companies who
Competency based interviews are commonplace within the sector however the view from employers raised it advised that new candidates had little knowledge of the company, its market, the financial
was that candidates overwhelmingly failed to prepare adequately despite being briefed in advance that services sector and general business practice.
the interview would take this form. They were unable to provide relevant examples of their skills,
experiences and general fit for roles. To a lesser extent employers advised that candidates did not Recruitment agencies
attend interview and failed to advise employers in advance.
The views from the participating recruitment agencies mirrored Agencies notice a difference
the key findings from the employers; with the main employability in attitude with ‘Generation Y’
2. Communication Skills skills issues highlighted as being a‘poor work ethic and candidates whose focus is
When employers discussed communication it was found that verbal skills were lacking in new candidates negative behaviours and attitudes’, including unrealistic
more about living for life
which resulted in companies being hesitant to expose candidates to client facing duties until they had graduate expectations of their current worth, a lack of strong
rather than work.
developed staff in this area. The same was true of candidates working with more senior colleagues communication skills, and lacking the ability to articulate
within the local business unit and around the world. Employees are frequently working in global teams themselves at interview or in CVs.
and called upon to lead and contribute to team discussion with peers. The inability of new talent to do
this upon joining resulted in additional cost implications for the companies. Written skills were also a Two of the four agencies mentioned they provide support to candidates in securing employment such
major factor with virtually all employers citing a lack of business English and poor letter writing skills as revising CVs and coaching for interviews, particularly competency based interview techniques, as
in their candidates. Poor use of grammar, structure and spelling were evident. Employers again noted they lack these skills. Whereas in the past some candidates were able to take on new roles on their
the impact resulted in additional layers of checks and balances which ultimately led to cost rises. own terms, in the current jobs market candidates have to work harder at interview to secure a job.
3. Numeracy Whilst graduates may be technically competent, in for example IT, their courses appear not to equip
them with good communication skills which are highly valued in business. Issues mentioned related to
While employers were not seeking advanced maths skills for many
It was the feeling of the poor verbal communication with employers, poor spelling and grammar, text speak and difficulties in
roles, a grasp of numeracy was important. Being able to work
drafting effective CVs.
effectively with numbers throughout all companies and departments group that candidates
was desirable. Mental arithmetic was an example many employers were generally lost
Agencies notice a difference in attitude with ‘Generation Y’ candidates whose focus is more about living
cited was lacking in candidates. It was the feeling of the group without a calculator. for life rather than work.
that candidates were generally lost without a calculator.
The recent economic downturn has also resulted in an increase in over qualified candidates looking for
Other Issues entry level roles, and more highly qualified temps moving down a job level to secure employment.
4. Accuracy Graduates without work experience are being encouraged to take temporary roles to develop their
Attention to detail was a key theme throughout with employers advising that new hires failed to take business skills.
responsibility for checking their work. This resulted in additional checks being performed by team
managers and co-workers to ensure accuracy. The impact of inaccurate work within the sector could Ideas from the recruitment agencies covered a broad range of solutions to improve the talent flow into
lead to substantial financial losses for institutions and so ownership for results was of paramount the financial services sector rather than just solely focusing on the employability issues. These are
importance to employers. covered in the potential solution section under ‘recruitment agencies’.
5. Problem Solving
Employers advised that it was difficult to find good problem solvers within the business. Candidates
failed to take ownership for results and pro-actively find solutions to barriers they may encounter.
The tendency with new candidates was to approach a manager with a problem seeking their solution.
While employers accepted that new hires may not feel entirely confident in solving complex issues, the
underlying skills set of seeking out a resolution and taking ownership for that process was lacking.
The Impact of the Issues to Business • Financial consequences – less repeat business and increased overheads equal lower revenues
Employers described the impact of these issues to their businesses; extra training, additional support • Difficult to educate – not easy to teach communication skills which results in a draw on training
and checking; poor customer experience which can result in complaints; the negative impact to other departments and managers
team members; micro management which is costly and time consuming; and poor perception of • Additional time taken to train managers and provide more support to staff – results in additional
company and brand. spend due to increased resource cost
• Loss of money in compensating customers – direct impact on profit
These impacts result in cost increases and time spent addressing the issues. A knock on effect can be • Unable to network and build good relationships / partnerships – do not collaborate across the
the loss of attracting new business or growing the business, as well as putting Scotland at risk versus firm effectively thereby hampering innovation and career progression
other financial centres. • Limits self confidence – lack of communication skills limit the ability to articulate well with
colleagues and clients impacting on self confidence
Poor Work Ethic & Willingness to go above and beyond Numeracy
• Damages productivity – affects what staff can achieve resulting in costs. Weak performers are a • Loss of time and money due to extra checking
drag on the team and breed lower team productivity in the long term. Low productivity doesn’t just • More customer complaints results in additional checks which takes additional time
affect overheads but it also puts Scotland at risk of attracting new inward investment – other and resource
centres are highly productive and cheaper in many cases
• Low morale - like negative attitudes are contagious and can spread quickly resulting in lower
productivity and additional cost as a result Attention to Detail
• Results – Not achieving targets, delivering inaccurate work or only barely meeting expectations
all impact upon the goals of the company. The lack of meeting targets or goals also has a direct • An increase in complaints - results in more time to address and resolve them incurring an
impact on team members who have to pick up the slack and this can breed resentment increased cost too
• Brand – Poor work ethic impacts brand ultimately as clients see better value elsewhere • Have to address the need to change and support development – additional training needs are
The negative impacts on a company brand can have lasting implications for customer loyalty, a draw on resources
profit and more
• Management overhead – additional checks on inaccurate work results in more management
time being used which adds to overheads. Level of micro-management to ensure delivery of Lack of customer focus
work diverts attention from other team members, is time consuming and adds a level of cost.
• Level of management – more development of staff who are not up to standard takes management • Damages employer brand and corporate profile – poor attitude towards providing excellence,
time away from others result in negative perceptions
• Contamination of wider workforce – morale and negative behaviours across whole teams can be • Opportunity cost – lost opportunity to surpass expectations resulting in lack of repeat business
impacted by one negative individual as others follow lead generating a culture of • Training costs – additional training draws upon resources and adds to overheads which
underperformance. Negative behaviours are at least as likely to have influence on others reduces profit
as positive behaviours • Reputational risk – poor reputation affects new business flows particularly from existing customers
• Team resentment – productive team members can resent doing additional work from less • Impact on internal and external clients – the impact of poor attitudes to service not only affect
productive members clients externally but have an impact on staff and can bring down overall service levels
• Engagement which results in churn – disengaged staff become restless and will change jobs
Understanding bigger picture of Financial Services
Communication • Higher turnover due to mismanaged expectations – the gap between expectation and reality leads
to more staff leaving
• Overheads – the additional checks and balances put in place add to overhead and reduce profit • Reputational risk on employer brand – low knowledge levels can lead to loss of customers as
• Poor customer quality – poor experience for the customer results in less loyalty and there is a gap between what the firm says it delivers and what it actually delivers in terms of
reduced business customer experience
• Brand damage – brand quality being eroded due to poor communication has a direct impact • Silo thinking in workplace which impacts succession planning and internal mobility – the focus
on business on own role and function limits opportunity and cross fertilisation of ideas
• Cross industry damage – poor customer experience across enough companies damages the entire
industry perception and brand
Schools and Universities Work-readiness of participants
Perceptions of the financial services industry School pupils felt less prepared for work than university
School pupils and university students had very similar views throughout our research. Their views of students although those that had a part time job felt better School pupils felt less prepared
working in financial services were dominated by negative perceptions in the discussions. They generally prepared. They said that more careers guidance would help for work than university
thought that careers in financial services would be dull, boring and repetitive and ‘minimum wage’. them to understand careers and the skills needed to gain students although those that
Their expectations were of office bound jobs which lacked challenge. The common view was that employment and progression. Such guidance would include had a part time job felt better
financial services companies demanded long working hours and that staff worked under high pressure. better CV and interview preparation. Students frequently
prepared. They said that more
commented that stronger links to work should be a central
part of the university experience to gain experience of the
careers guidance would help
It was clear that the image of the financial services sector had been negatively impacted by the banking
‘real world’. This included talks from industry, organised them to understand careers and
crisis. Students seemed very aware of the recession and the role financial services played. This
reinforced their views of the industry in a negative way. Sample comments we received in almost all work experience placements and long sandwich placements the skills needed to gain
focus groups included ‘sharks, shady, corrupt, greedy, predatory, cut throat, exploitation of customers, within a degree programme itself. Better guidance from employment and progression.
unsafe employment area and a need to restore public confidence’. employers on what they require was also seen as an asset.
One of the few positive remarks was that pay and reward within financial services was attractive as was School pupils felt they needed more qualifications before being work ready. Students felt there was
the potential challenge, opportunities and promotion. The dynamicity of the financial sector and the a gap in their course work with the focus being on theory with little or no practical application.
importance of the sector to the economy were also seen as an advantage to some of the participants.
The Extent of the Employability Problem
Key factors in choosing a career path It has been difficult to measure the extent of the employability skills issues as employers and recruitment
When asked about what influenced their career choices, pupils advised that money was an important agencies don’t record statistics on employability. However employers and recruiters advised that the
factor but they were more concerned about whether they enjoyed or had a particular interest in their general work readiness of new entrants has deteriorated over recent years with the employability
role. A sense of purpose was also a key factor. They looked for flexible working arrangements beyond problem becoming more prominent. It was also not considered that the issues in Scotland were any
simply 9-5 hours. They also had an interest in travel and promotion within their roles. The type of greater than in other parts of the UK. Of the employers we approached to participate in the research,
environment and the people they worked with was a consideration. Unsurprisingly in the current only one organisation declined on the basis that they didn’t encounter any employability issues.
climate, job security and availability of jobs was cited as an important factor when considering any
future career. The pupils and students said that this was a clear disadvantage of the financial services There are examples of candidates that exhibit the key characteristics that employers look for but the
sector at the current time. general view is that they are increasingly in the minority. One employer stated that ‘it is refreshing
when an applicant has done their homework; well presented; great at interview; enthusiastic and
They gave a clear message that the professionalism, ethics and trust of an industry or company was an positive; and go beyond the expected such as writing a thank you follow up letter after the interview.’
important factor in deciding upon their career paths. Even a small action such as checking where the interview location is in advance or leaving plenty of
time to find it so as not to be late were considered important and showed up those who clearly hadn’t
What skills are important for financial services employers taken the effort.
We worked with the pupils and students to understand their expectations of financial services
For those candidates that have the right attributes there are
employers in terms of skills and behaviours from new entrants. All placed educational attainment at ‘it is refreshing when an
a number of success stories of school leavers and graduates
the top of their list. They expected to have to be very good at maths in order to enter careers in the
who have stayed in the business and progressed to different applicant has done their
financial services industry.
levels and roles. Employers invest the time and money on homework; well presented;
training and development and these people are more likely great at interview;
University students were better able to identify the underlying traits that employers sought such as
to advance within the company. enthusiastic and positive; and
work ethic, drive, commitment, ownership for results and general attitude although it was more evident
in the newer universities. Those who were able to recognise the importance of these attributes go beyond the expected such
Employers and recruiters ranked the employability issues
generally had work experience which they performed in their own time. as writing a thank you follow
as being most prevalent in school leavers followed by
graduates and to a lesser extent experienced hires. up letter after the interview.’
• Education sector need to work more on setting realistic expectations of the value of a degree
Employers and what role graduates can expect. Managing expectations between students and work – the
What follows below are suggested solutions from participants within the various groups. These have expectation particularly of graduates is beyond that of reality, although employers have managed
not been analysed as we are planning to assess them against existing provision and then determine this it results in churn and additional cost to industry
next steps. • The 50% target of young people attending university is not working or needed – degrees are
being devalued as many have one yet perfectly capable individuals who do not are been squeezed
Behaviours / Attitudes
out. More could be done to reach high achieving school leavers
• Careers promotion to focus on routes to entry, current environment and managing expectations
• Teach world of work skills - bridging the gap between school, university and industry and ensuring
– much more work to be done at the careers advice level in school, FE and HE to promote the
a closer alignment to develop core skills
sector and set realistic expectations
• Increasing work experience – possibly in groups – more work experience at school level with
financial services companies, beyond school, more internships
Communication / Numeracy
• Come to work for a few days – more access to employers
• Explore different ways to achieve work experience (e.g. interactive ways of delivering work
• Courses established post school / university to improve these skills in adults requiring further
experience, classroom methods)
• More sandwich courses – more sandwich placements within degrees
• Improve standards of numeracy and literacy in schools
• Compulsory prep for world of work (companies to get involved for two days during work
experience course at school) – more core skills training for pupils at school with
Marketing / CV and Interviews
• Older population helping mentor younger population with a competitive element – strong role
• Preparing for interviews could be delivered via online tests – careers services could be delivering
models within employers could take a more active role in mentoring new talent
methods of skills assessments that test candidate abilities
• Attend / experience Career Academies – more companies to engage with the Career
• Develop own industry standards of assessment – industry to develop customised methods of
employment testing at interview to ensure they get the right skills
• PhD research into employability – could develop links to university researchers to understand the
issues more fully and plan for the future
• Skills for work should be embedded in all subjects in school before highers – these shouldn’t be
optional elements instead of other courses, they are fundamental aspects of equipping young
• Shift of focus for employers on resourcing – employers could hire more from schools if the
people and are equally applicable at FE and HE
maturity levels and general work-readiness skills were in place
• Training behaviours at school level – being explicit about life skills within the classroom and how
• Industry driven specification of needs in single communication with all relevant players – sector
they prepare for the world of work is imperative, although this seems to be on the curriculum it
wide articulation of needs to education sector, policy makers and stakeholders to ensure close fit
needs to fit employer requirements much more
of future workforce
• Mandatory work experience within financial services – work experience tends to focus on retail
• Offshoring, what skills will we need in the future? – we have to continually upskill as an industry
industries, more could be done to build work experience links with financial services
to be able to retain and attract investment, we need to focus on future growth areas of the business
• Awareness of employer requirements should be spread of educational journey – from early years
• Better use of new technology in the workplace such as MSN Messenger – changing the way we
onwards employers and education need to engage more to share expectations and build links to the
operate to better appeal to the instant nature of the new workforce
world of work
• A day in the life of our business could be implemented – more awareness of what work is like and
what can be achieved could help to address the lack of understanding
• Structured work experience needed to focus on time keeping, customer service skills,
ownership etc. – work experience should be delivered at schools to focus on teaching the core
skills needed in a practical setting, re-enforcing the values taught in the classroom
• Positive role models needed who demonstrate ‘above and beyond’ – identify key performers who
serve as an example to others and seek to have them mentor weaker performers
• Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an ideal category for employers to carry out this work –
companies could do much more on employability under CSR and would see direct benefits
Promotion of financial services sector Suggestions for financial services employers to consider
• Use the media to raise profile – whole industry to collaborate to promote as a united front online, • Consider more flexibility in competency based interviews. A belief that one size does not fit all.
within influential press, on TV, taxis etc For example a candidate may have scored a 4 but needs a 5. Performed well but will not be offered
• Employers to do more with Financial Education Partnership (FEP) – employers to volunteer with the job as rigid rules which are applied to all scores.
the existing FEP that SIO and FSSC support to deliver career awareness sessions in schools across • Question as to whether competency based interviews are appropriate for all roles
the country • Consider more flexibility on pre-employment screening (PES). Some employers are more flexible
• Schools competition similar to Young Enterprise initiatives or Dragons Den – more business than others but it’s a big issue. For instance checks on whether candidates have ever had a debt,
engagement from industry in a stimulating format could help to inspire young people to consider three year referencing or proof of address. A lot of people have had debts but these people are
our business automatically declined as ineligible for financial services because of that even though they may
• Do we need to change as an industry to keep up? – we as an industry need to consider changing have the right skills.
the way we market ourselves and appeal to young people • Employers may want to consider changing their recruitment process. For instance in the past
• Employers to share information on recruitment with schools – firms to engage with schools to where an employer has been an employer of choice the employer will now need to work harder
outline opportunities for school leavers to sell the company and the job. Instead of the employer going straight to a competency based
• Resource for students and pupils to view – better resources to show candidates the career interview at the start, the first interview should be about selling the job, and the second interview
opportunities a competency based one.
• Interactive promotion of financial services – perhaps an online format to raise awareness of the • A suggestion that employers may want to review their marketing of the job opportunity and
industry, its importance and the wide and varied career paths available update messages that may have become tired if used for many years. Consider updating the
• Risk and reward – is the current climate limiting talent flow? – employer felt the slower messages and tapping into other talent pools.
employment market was limiting the best talent from entering the business
Easier routes into the profession
• There are huge barriers to entry facing young adults and graduates. Even once qualified,
Recruitment Agencies candidates are often unable to get the job they want because they lack experience. Employers need
to open their doors to more of these qualified people and provide the support and experience they
Behaviours / Attitudes need. Graduate programmes and training support needs to be encouraged and employers should
consider mentoring programmes to help those without experience to gain the skills required. More
• Find out if its an issue that candidates are not motivated to work in financial services of a focus on attracting people to this industry will be key, however, without necessary support
• Introduce a ‘national service’ or ‘boot camp’ type solution being offered, particularly to new entrants, it will prove fruitless.
• Find a way for graduates to obtain more work / vocational experience to see positive work ethics
and what is expected of employees Employer flexibility
• As part of the education process, ensure young people have an understanding on what the world
of work is about. • Employers will need to support professionals that temporarily left the industry during the
recession. Many of these professionals were made redundant and are keen to return to a career in
Marketing / CV and interviews financial services. Employers, on seeing the gaps on their CV, are however reluctant to offer these
skilled professionals a job, as their proven track record is no longer up-to-date. In an industry that
• Improve the advice / support from the careers service. Stress the importance of candidates is struggling to find talent, these professionals need consideration as well as recognition for their
writing a good covering letter with their CV. Suggestion that there is too much focus on online desire to return to the industry.
• Continued support from recruitment agencies to help candidates revise their CVs, at all levels Leadership and management
• Advising candidates on what to expect at interviews. Better preparation for competency based
interviews. • Employers must take an active role in developing talented managers and leaders. The impact
of managerial skills gaps and poor leadership is enormous and strategic, long-term thinking is
Promotion of the sector paramount. Addressing this issue ought to be one of the industry’s highest priorities if it is to truly
address damaged perceptions and better promote the opportunities it has to offer.
• Change the view that jobs in the sector are ‘boring’. Introduce video case studies from
employers to promote the sector.
• Keep interested parties up to date with current jobs market – not all doom and gloom in financial
services – there are some financial services companies recruiting
• Employers should visit 6th form classes at schools to plant the seeds of job opportunity
Behaviours / Attitudes World of work
• Focus on rewards and incentives for good work and behaviour. Give reasons for tasks. Work for • Greater interaction between employers and universities with more widespread use of ‘sandwich’
a cause rather than just work for money. courses (lecture theory and work placements). Academia linked to employability and the real
• Team building and social events – you want to enjoy work so you’ll put in more effort for world i.e. industry
your friend • More work placements to enable students to gain experience and an understanding on the world
• More social classes in school of work – this was perceived as being a high priority at every university event. How to get
• A pay reduction for a poor attitude - behaviour – three strike system placements.
• Better management to provide support, encouragement and improve confidence • Initiatives between business and universities. More contribution from financial institutions to
• Motivate workers by showing them you want them to be good universities. Need training and meetings with company reps.
• Generate fear • More interest from employers to sponsor students through higher education
• Better recruitment system • Most jobs are very specific so it’s hard for the university to do more than the general
• Staff training • More practical training and experience – meeting with graduates already at work
• Offer one promotion to a group of workers • Establish more degrees related to financial services with industrial placements or summer
Numeracy / Communication • To know what skills employers look for. Make clear what is expected in the world of work
• Leadership guidelines – how to progress through the company
• Provide training in numeracy and communication skills particularly grammar / spelling • Universities should start tackling poor behaviours e.g. lateness or non attendance at University
• Social events to encourage verbal communication for new employees
Communication / Numeracy
Promotion of the sector
• Back to basics in schools to get the fundamentals right. Government and schools need to be
• Financial services employers visiting schools and talking about their career and what they do. responsible for education particularly english and arithmetic
Days out at friendly workplaces • Seminars for writing skills and verbal communication
• Need to promote the careers and industry well – it’s not all just numbers • Adding workshops into mandatory academic learning
• Put these skills into practice at schools and colleges.
World of work • Liaise with universities more to highlight the problems
• Many mentioned more work experience and opportunities to go into different workplaces / Advice for applicants
• More work experience throughout the school year to gain a better understanding of the working • Seek more extra curriculum activities that employers will look on favourably
environment. • Be prepared, take time, check everything twice, practice interviews before
• More practical training or experience combined with theory • Find positive things about the company and let the interviewer know that you are aware of them
• Visits from financial services employers to share their experiences of the world of work
• Get people from various professions to come in and talk about what the job involves, what you Promotion of industry
have to do, how to get in and what expected
• More lessons dealing with work and jobs – better education on what to expect in work • Promote the industry well - maybe it’s not all just numbers. Visits to schools. Better insight
• More advice on what careers suitable for individuals. Improved education about how to get a job, required into job roles. May have a view that things are not good that needs to be corrected.
mock interviews and constructing CVs
• Help looking for a Saturday job to gain experience
Next Steps Contact Details
Report findings are being communicated and distributed to a broad range of stakeholders involved in Alan Thornburrow
the sector, from education to government, to both inform and establish what is currently being done by Chief Executive
organisations to resolve the key issues arising from this research. Scottish Investment Operations
24 Melville Street
FSSC and SIO have submitted a summary of findings to the Financial Services Skills Gateway steering Edinburgh
group, as part of a high level summary report on skills issues affecting the sector. EH3 7NS
Once responses have been received from stakeholders FSSC and SIO will evaluate the current provision Email: email@example.com
versus the gaps to identify what needs to be addressed. Our aim would be to make use of existing Tel: 07809 364089
provision where possible, and make improvements to current offerings, if necessary. A plan of action
will be produced and agreed to be taken forward collaboratively with financial services employers and Linda Houston
other organisations. Relationship Manager Scotland
Financial Services Skills Council
Finally, both Linda Houston (FSSC) and Alan Thornburrow (SIO) would like to thank all those who kindly 28 Castle Street
gave up their time and participated in this important research. Edinburgh
Tel: 07841 235226
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