Did you know that one in every seven 15-24 year olds are unable to find a job in Australia?

Youth unemployment currently sits at almost three times the adult rate.  It’s 12.4% in Australia, but this rate is not uniform across the entire country, here in Queensland for example, the rate is much higher at  20.4%.   What we find really scary is that these figures fail to reflect the underemployed, those in jobs not utilising their skills, or the invisible unemployed, young adults that have become so disillusioned that they have elected to drop out of the welfare system entirely.

Years ago, in a much more industrialised economy the key to getting a good job was a good education.  This is no longer the case – even degree qualified young people are struggling with graduate employability, the worst rate in over 20 years.

The workforce has evolved – automation, globalisation, innovation and a shift to service based businesses has created an enormous skills gap that is not being addressed by the current education system that is still highly geared towards the development of knowledge over ability.  

In these unpredictable and fast moving times it is the skills that can’t be benchmarked, measured or tested that our employers are really looking for; things like leadership, teamwork, innovation, resilience, communication and creativity.

The biggest and best companies all over the world are increasingly looking for these soft skills and are also sighting an entrepreneurial mindset as a highly desirable quality –  in effect they are saying ‘if you want to help build our company, you need to have the right tools to build your own‘.

Lazlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, said in an interview with New York Times that they have five attributes they look for in new hires and even for technical roles. Their number one assessment is not IQ but learning ability – whether someone can pick things up on the fly and continuously learn and develop.  Another key item is leadership:

“What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else? Because what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.”

Jeff Vijungco, Adobe‘s Vice President of Global Talent explained in this article that they are looking for team players that can innovate and have strong emotional intelligence:

“As we transform our business, we’re looking for individuals who set a high bar for themselves and their teammates. We want individuals who can drive change through innovation and can scale a business. The individuals we seek are also those who welcome feedback in the spirit of continuous improvement and those who demonstrate strong Emotional Intelligence (EQ)” 

It’s not just the big technology companies that are searching for these skills, it’s across the board in all businesses, regardless of size, the message keeps ringing out loud and clear.  A 2014 survey of nearly 600 employers conducted by GMAT revealed what they want most from new graduate business hires—they want people who can speak well, write well, listen to others, present well, sell ideas to others, and negotiate with others.

When we developed the Startup Apprentice program in 2013, we underpinned each lesson with a key life skill that we had identified as being crucial to create a mindset for the future.  This new mindset is essential whether you aspire to run your own businesses, or work within an existing business.  And it’s our mission to help our educators create lessons and programs that will simulate ‘real-life’ environments where these skills can be encouraged and developed before the job search begins.

In upcoming posts, we will recommend some other ways that you as a student can begin to develop these important skills both inside and outside of school or college hours.

Stay inspired.