Trying to hire staff

There is no getting round the fact that great ideas are always made or ruined by other people.

That’s never truer than in business, particularly when you’re trying to hire staff.

No matter how polished a CV, accomplished a psychometric test or silky smooth a candidate’s banter, it’s only when a person is hired that you realise you have an idiot on your hands. This can range from the aggressive salesperson, or the illiterate marketer to the driver with scant regard for the highway code.

Our education system doesn’t help. The emphasis on the abstract as opposed to the practical often creates epic levels of boredom in the majority of classrooms. It leads to school leavers and graduates who, even if they can read and write and don’t faint at the prospect of calculating a percentage, lack any practical, usable skills on which an employer can build. They’re also frequently clueless about what they want to do (for the graduates, this is when teaching, curiously enough, suddenly seems like an attractive career).

Too often, the employer is recruiting a blank slate – in every sense.

The government says it is trying to address this problem (as has every government for the past 30 years). The Education and Skills Act means that all young people will stay in education or training until the age of 17 from 2013, and 18 from 2015.

A package of reforms is being implemented to complement the Act, including revamped GCSEs and A levels, along with the expansion of the apprenticeships programme and introduction of a diploma. The focus will be on the core skills that employers value: functional skills in English, maths and ICT and personal, learning and thinking skills, while the apprenticeship and diploma programmes will give young people more on-the-job, practical training.

Sir Alan Jones, chairman of Toyota and lead employer champion of the diploma, believes that additional on-site experience ‘will really help equip young people for the world of work. Too many just don’t understand what business is about. The diploma will give them the linkage between practice and theory and the ability to see how it all comes together.’

Bringing employers into the learning process at an earlier stage should reduce the blank slate syndrome and make it easier to hire people. They’ll be pragmatic. Trained. They will know what’s required of them.

Well, that’s the theory, anyway.

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