Posted: 28 November 2014
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The right choice

Recruitment needs to focus on employability skills if the UK is to continue to thrive, says Steve Holliday, Chief Executive Officer.

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The right choice

The right choice

Steve Holliday believes that the employability of young people should be measured by a wider set of outcomes and not just educational attainment.

"We need to shift our mindset around recruiting young people."

Steve Holliday Chief Executive Officer.


Over 90 businesses have now used the Generation Talent self-assessment tool since it was launched last year.

Source: National Grid.

On the anniversary of Step Up To Serve and Generation Talent, Steven Holliday, National Grid’s Chief Executive Officer, National Grid BITC’s Responsible Business of the Year and Chair of the Talent & Skills Leadership Team makes the case for youth friendly recruitment that focuses on employability skills.

Employment is rising and the UK economy is beginning to grow again after a long and challenging recession. Despite this, businesses struggle to fill vacancies and many young people remain unemployed, simply because the skills needed and the skills available aren’t matching up. This ‘Skills crunch’ not only threatens to slow down our recovery but also looms over our youth and threatens to take away the most powerful thing of all – hope. As a CEO, father and Chair of BITCs Talent and Skills leadership team, this paradox worries me. A lot.


Steve Holliday, Chief Executive Officer.

It was clear to me, and many other businesses, that the system was failing somewhere, but what was not clear was where the solution lay. In a bid to see what role recruitment plays in this paradox, we launched the Generation Talent self-assessment tool last year. The tool helped companies find out for themselves. It gave them the means to re-examine their recruitment practices top-to-bottom, prompting them to think hard about what attributes and experience they needed in new recruits.

I’m really happy to say that a year on, over 90 businesses have now used the tool. But there is one big, and unnerving, surprise. When it comes to recruiting young people, many of our recruitment practices simply aren’t fit for purpose. Talented, motivated young people are often unwittingly screened out. Cultures and practices have crept into recruitment processes that take the focus away from attitude and the meaningful skills that business really need such as teamwork and determination.

Listening to what these businesses have learned over the last year I believe we need a change. We need to shift our mindset around recruiting young people. We need to shift from a mindset focused on qualifications to one that encourages young people to broaden their horizons; to help find solutions to the world’s big challenges.

However there’s a catch. If we recognize that recruitment has to focus on real employability skills, then we as businesses have a much bigger role to play. Employability skills won’t just happen by accident. Employers must find different ways to engage with young people and do this earlier in their school lives and do it more often.

The employability of young people should be measured by a much wider set of outcomes not just educational attainment. I believe that youth social action is one way to do just this. At National Grid, we include a question about social action in our application and interview processes and advocate social action in our recruitment materials, website and job adverts.

This isn’t just about addressing the needs of the UK or business; it is also about the lives, the future of our children, yours and mine. We need to help them understand the opportunities and equip them with the skills they need for the future.

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Click here to download the November edition of ‘In the Community’.

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