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What does the future workforce want?

A key challenge for many businesses continues to be attracting people with the skills they need. Tackling ‘skills gaps’ with employers is a daily conversation in my role at Weston College, writes David Crew, Head of Employer Partnerships at Weston College.

It’s a challenge and has driven the increase in employers engaging with our Future Talent Business Partner scheme, which connects students with employers through our faculty Careers Excellence Hubs.

If you’re reading this blog and planning to recruit new staff, it’s likely that although 80% of the talent you need is probably already in work (your recruitment strategy for skilled people) and perhaps the other 20% are probably in education and yet to join the workforce.

As someone leading business engagement activity at Weston College, I’m often hearing the employer perspective on working with those in education. However, it’s important that we understand what our young people want.

We’re understanding our audience through our marketing and communication strategies to attract customers, so why shouldn’t we deploy the same approach to find talent to grow our businesses?

What does the future workforce, as in our young people in education, want from their future career or employer? Here’s what I discovered from a few recent conversations here at Weston College:

Values are important. Young people want to work for employers that have clear values that align with their values. Many want more than just a job, and feel that through their job at work, they can positively contribute to the external environment around them.

Work life balance. The pandemic changed the way we work and work life balance is key for young people too. Some have seen their parents now hybrid working, but to young people work life balance doesn’t just mean working from home.

Many students place greater importance on their outputs (what they achieve) rather than being measured on their inputs (working hours). They feel what they produce should be valued more than say how much or what time it’s taken to produce their work, which raises questions regarding their attitude to fixed working hours and a desire for flexible working patterns.

Pay fairness, workplace equality and inclusion. Young people want financial stability and fair pay, but they also want to know the vision of their employer and how they’re part of that. Equity is important and they want to see how a business takes equality, diversity, and inclusion seriously. Employer’s approach to EDI (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion) is important and how employers communicate this to the future workforce is key.

Social responsibility and sustainability. Many care about climate change as they’ll be here to see further impact of climate change. They do their research and want to know a business cares about the community and external environment around them, and that businesses have taken action to reduce their environmental impact to play their part to mitigate climate change.

Knowing self-worth. Many young people are more self-assured and happier to fight for what they believe in. Remember that those currently in education have little awareness of a deep recession (despite turbulence during the pandemic) and have grown up in a candidate-driven employment market. This also links back to young people placing significant importance on their values.

Important to say that my reflections above is based on conversations with staff and students at Weston College only, and of course not representative of all young people. However, I recently read a survey by the Open University (2024) that said 72% of employers have seen a shift in young people’s values and priorities in the workplace in the past three years.

So, what’s the solution to harnessing and recruiting the workforce of tomorrow? Engagement, having conversations and creating partnerships.

That’s where we can help at Weston College. We connect employers with our students, both in the classroom through talks and projects, through workplace experience through our student industry placement programme and beyond college through apprenticeships.

So, let’s create those conversations. Contact us at to engage with the future workforce and grow your business.

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