How to advise clients on increasing employability skills.
Advance Employability Overview
This competency requires a career development practitioner to:
- Know how to access state, parastatal and private employment opportunities.
- Assist clients to register on national, regional, state and private employment databases.
- Have knowledge of job-hunting techniques.
- Assist individuals to identify their work-related interests, skills, knowledge and values.
- Assist individuals to identify and overcome barriers to work and tuition.
- Assist individuals to identify and acquire skills that make them employable.
- Possess CV writing skills.
- Prepare clients for interviews.
- Understand the importance of work on the human psyche.
- Develop a network of recruitment agencies, both generic and specialized.
Sizwe Sithole recently completed his matric. He was at a loss about what to do with his life. He heard that many of his friends struggled to find a job and that they submit CVs to many companies, but that they are not even called for an interview. He heard from his friends that the employers often say that they want applicants with work experience. How would young people who never worked obtain work experience, if they never got a chance to prove themselves, he thought to himself. This made Sizwe despondent. He was in a wheelchair and he thought that would limit his work options further - how would he compete with other people to find a job? Due to his parents not being well-to-do, he did not have money for studies or transport to access a job or training institution.
At school Sizwe participated in the chess club. His teacher often told him what a diligent worker he was and that he worked well in a team and should choose a career where he could deal with people when the time is right, because he also managed to solve situations where students had a squabble.
The teacher referred Sizwe to a career development practitioner. Sizwe mentioned to the career development practitioner that he did not know how to tackle his future. He also raised the issue of employers wanting work experience and that he was in a wheelchair and did not have much confidence in his own future. The career development practitioner empathised with Sizwe and told him that all people had barriers to the world of work, but these barriers differ from person to person. The career development practitioner told Sizwe that many young people struggle to find work, because not enough new job opportunities are created and that in South Africa many young people compete for the few opportunities available. The fact that young people could not find work is a worldwide problem. South Africa has legislation and structures to help young people find work opportunities. What is more, special measures are taken to help people with disabilities to find work. This would not mean that everything would be plain sailing, but that they should work together and help Sizwe to increase his chances to find work. The career development practitioner explained to Sizwe the principle of employability, namely that people were more or less employable, depending on the skills they had to offer the employer and that one could improve one’s employability skills to maximise one’s chances to find a job.
The career development practitioner explained to Sizwe that they would develop a plan of action to address his employability. As a first step she assisted Sizwe to identify his career interests and skills to choose a study direction to improve the work skills he can offer the employer. Sizwe told her that the teacher told him that he should work with people. This was confirmed when Sizwe did a self-exploration career interest questionnaire which indicated this career interest clearly. Sizwe chose a career as a customer relations officer. The career development practitioner helped him look at the job requirements and she saw that he would be able to perform the functions if he were in a position where he liaised telephonically with customers. This would mean that his disability would not be an issue. The career development practitioner helped him to choose a suitable learnership, since this would mean that he could also earn a stipend while he studied and could find work easily, since he would be doing practicals at an employer. If he showed a good work ethic during his work time at the employer, the employer might be more willing to employ him, because he already had work experience and the employer would know his worth.
The career development practitioner spent some more time with Sizwe to encourage him to search for a learnership. She contacted the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa (NCPPDSA), to establish whether they have options for transport for Sizwe. She looked up on the internet as well and found the site www.disabilityinfosa.co.za which provided different transport options. She requested him to participate in voluntary work, such as in the church, to build his work skills.
As a second step, the career development practitioner helped Sizwe to apply for the training by developing a CV and developing interview skills. The career development practitioner explains the importance of a curriculum vitae and they design a CV together with important elements like a personal statement, education and qualifications, skills section, experience and references. Sizwe creates a clear CV and cover letter to the training institution.
As a third step, the career development practitioner showed Sizwe a list of the “soft skills” that employers most want, when they hire employees. She explained that “soft skills” are character traits or habits, which make individuals more employable. Soft skills are also sometimes called life skills. She referred back to what his teacher told him about being diligent and told him that being diligent is a sign of having a good work ethic. Thus, Sizwe already had one aspect of a soft skill. The soft skills most wanted by employers are: Work Ethics, Communication, Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Interpersonal Relationships, Teamwork (inclusive of cultural fitness), Adaptability, Problem-solving, Self-management, Organisation, Creativity and Innovation, and Computer skills. The career development practitioner explained what each of these meant. She encouraged Sizwe to identify which of the soft skills he thought he would prefer to develop. She encouraged him to develop these in himself as far as possible, through reading up and taking life skills courses. He could also come back to receive life skills training in these.
Two years later, it happened that Sizwe visited the Career Centre again and he wanted to find a job with another employer, because the building of his current employer was not wheelchair-friendly. The career development practitioner assisted him with job searching skills from the traditional approaches, which included techniques like scanning newspapers, referrals (from friends and family) and telephone cold calling to the modern approaches like job search engines, Twitter and LinkedIn. Sizwe’s attention is drawn to “personal branding” where he learns the value of an online presence. Sizwe also learned how to search for jobs on governmental sites when the practitioner encouraged him to search for “South African governmental jobs”. He learned how to register on the Employment Services of South Africa (ESSA) system, which served to link unemployed people with possible vacancies.
While Sizwe is job hunting, he kept on volunteering at his church and joined a local non-profit organisation and loved his new community development focus. By doing so, he has developed many skills and is gaining skills that increases his employability, such as using resources creatively and sparingly, and working with community stakeholders like the government and donors. He becomes more self-confident and his CV is expanding.
The practitioner mentioned trusted job portals (Career Jet, Indeed, Career Junction, Careers24, Jobmail, Best Jobs, Pnet, Jobvine and Bizcommunity) and recruitment agencies, so Sizwe keeps checking these and some alert him if jobs matching his profile come up.
At this non-profit organization job, people are complimenting him on his good work ethic, because he is always on time and keeps his word. Sizwe feels empowered and his job search has already had him shortlisted and interviewed twice for a permanent position. He kept on reading on life skills which he felt lacking in himself, such as being adaptable to change and leadership.
Soon Sizwe is handpicked for a job at an employer.
Let us take a brief look at the case study which highlights the concept employability. We hope you learn from this how to advise clients on increasing employability skills like volunteering, networking, starting new ventures and having the required soft skills, overcoming barriers to the world of work, etc. The following information, tips, guidelines and questions will assist you.
There will be some comments and questions relating to the case study so bear that in mind as you continue.
Examples are the following:
- Education level
- Work experience
- Criminal record
- Age (for example youth and retirees or older people find it hard to be employed)
- Women (Discrimination due to for instance family commitments)
- Life skills
- Mental health
- Drugs and alcohol
- Family problems
- Domestic violence
- Stereotypical views of persons with disabilities, women, youth, race
- Unwillingness to adapt the workplace for universal access
- Technology not available
- Large outbreaks of disease
- Policies to create work
The CDP has to establish which barriers are relevant to the client and assist them to overcome those barriers. The CDP for example assisted Sizwe to find transport and overcome his other barriers, such as limited transport and funding. The CDP should keep collecting information on solutions for these barriers and keep it on hand to advise the client. In cases where the client presents with issues that the CDP may not intervene in, due to limited information or working out of scope, the client must be referred to other organisations or a Specialist Career Development Practitioner. Most of the soft skills programmes can be delivered by the CDP.
The importance of work on humans' psyche
- economical relevance.
- a role as a socialising mechanism, as a source of social exchange and as a feature of individual identity.
For individuals, work has an important role in developing:
- a personal and social identity.
- family and social bonds.
- financial independence.
- improved self-confidence.
- self-esteem and a sense of self-worth.
CV writing skills
As in the case study, it is important to assist people in writing their CVs. Have a few templates that people can choose from on hand.
The most important thing to remember about CVs, is that they need updating and this must be done every time people learn something new and complete a new responsibility.
Help people to realise that when they receive compliments and build relationships that are notable in their career, they ask that person if they can use them as a reference on their CV. This too must be updated as you grow and move on in life. References must know enough about the person to remember what work they have done, their character and work ethic.
Prepare clients for interviews
It is easy to help clients prepare for interviews if you have experienced it and if you can give them real-life experiences and examples. If not, use videos to help you. Role-play works well for this type of learning and the more practical the session, the better. If you have a group that can act as an interviewing panel it can help, but the clients must give each other feedback and developmental recommendations on how to improve.
If you struggle with this aspect, ask people that work in HR to help you put some questions together. You can also look on the internet to look for difficult interview questions and how to answer them best.
There are many employment agencies and youth employment accelerator services like Harambee, National Youth Development Agency, SA Graduate Development Association, etc., that have valuable information on interviews.
It is important for the practitioner to recognise that assistance must be tailored to fit every individual need.
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Kindly attribute as follows:
Beukes, C. J., Mahadave, K., & Kanhai, K. (2022). Professional Development Portfolio for Career Development Practitioners (1st ed.). CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 ZA, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/za
Christopher John Beukes
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