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What 100,000 young people say about their essential skills

We are now able to understand how students feel about their essential skills on a national scale, using the Skills Builder Universal Framework. 

The Future Skills Questionnaire

The Careers & Enterprise Company’s (CEC) large-scale Future Skills Questionnaire (FSQ) provides exciting insights into careers education for young people today. Over 100,000 11-19 year olds had their say in this national survey on labour market awareness, ability to seek information and guidance, and essential skill levels in England. 

The FSQ national survey reveals that targeted essential skills education may hold the key to setting up our young people ready to face the future. As the country responds to the recent PISA results, it is important to also focus on the non-negotiable essential skills that our young people need to succeed as part of a complete education. There is growing evidence and interest now in how we measure essential skills with the same rigour and scalability as for other educational performance measures. 

Within the Future Skills Questionnaire, young people consider the specific knowledge and skills required for them to navigate and succeed in the transition between education levels or into employment and the eight essential skills mapped in the Skills Builder Universal Framework: Listening, Speaking, Problem Solving, Creativity, Staying Positive, Aiming High, Leadership and Teamwork. 

The sample represents every region of the country and across different types of educational institutions. The collective voice of students gives us a distinct opportunity to identify how essential skills education is being delivered and how we can better this moving forward to drive positive careers outcomes. 

Students’ essential skills

The CEC’s summary shares that:

While most students rate their essential skills positively, there is variation between skills. By Year 11, students feel more confident in their ability to stay positive and creativity skills than in their leadership ability or listening skills

As with last academic year, students’ essential skills scores were high in Year 7 (70% average), dipped in Year 8 (59% average) and then steadily increased until Year 11 (70% average).  

By Year 11, there were differences in students’ confidence across the different skills (Fig. 1). Students were, on average, most confident about their ability to stay positive, with 8 in 10 (82%) Year 11 students saying they could identify the positives and negatives in an opportunity. More than 7 in 10 students were confident in their creativity (74%), problem-solving (70%) and teamwork (70%) skills and their ability to aim high (71%). Students were least confident in their listening skills, with only 60% being aware of how a speaker might exert influence through the way they speak. 

Fig 1: Proportion of Year 11 students responding positively to questions on their essential skills (listening, speaking, problem-solving, creativity, staying positive, aiming high, leadership and teamwork), Insight briefing: Student career readiness in 2022/23, Careers & Enterprise Company.

The way forward

“It is great to see the insights from the CEC Future Skills Questionnaire, particularly as we are now successfully and consistently measuring essential skills on a national scale. The insights from the report will help teaching essential skills become more targeted and impactful in classrooms nationwide, ensuring that students are well-prepared for the challenges of the future job market.” said Tom Ravenscroft, Founder & CEO, Skills Builder Partnership.

Alongside the Future Skills Questionnaire, the Careers & Enterprise Company’s recent Employer Standards include 9 standards for career education, with standard 4 focused on essential skills. The standard encourages employers to play an active role in supporting young people to build essential skills: 

  • Upskill young people: Support young people to develop essential skills 
  • Embed essential skills within your careers education offer: Deliver activities and offer opportunities to practise and reflect on the importance of essential skills 
  • Explain the relevance and importance of essential skills: Support young people, teachers and Careers Leaders in understanding why essential skills are invaluable in the workplace

Together, the Future Skills Questionnaire and Employer Standards are helping to ensure that essential skills are a national priority that employers are supporting to put into practice. 

We are proud to have the essential skills in the Universal Framework included in both the Future Skills Questionnaire and the Employer Standards, as part of the broader work that the Careers & Enterprise Company is doing to drive national standards around young people’s careers and its repertoire of careers insights and knowledge. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the CEC to build on these insights and initiatives.