The performance of our new generation in the workplace is being criticised frequently. In order to help young people improve their employability, The Salvation Army has been collaborating with the Assessment and Training Centre of the Chinese University of Hong Kong since 2013 to develop an "Employability Assessment Tool" (EAT) measuring 12 domains, aiming to provide comprehensive data for the government, the business sector and parents to review the policies and strategies for forward looking improvement of the employability of young people.
The EAT has been applied to the service users (aged 15 to 29) of The Salvation Army Employment Service for the past three years. A territory-wide sampling survey was launched in early 2016 to conduct a cross-sectional study on the employability of senior secondary students in Hong Kong. According to the survey, the employability of students with work experience was relatively higher than those without. Many students valued their parents’ point of views on their life planning. Therefore, those who had a good relationship with parents and whose parents had reasonable expectations on their career plans showed higher employability. The findings echo the belief of The Salvation Army that the family is the primary social arena in which a child establishes a core identity with which to enter adulthood.
Importance of Parent-child Relationship
2,236 senior secondary school students from 18 districts in Hong Kong were interviewed with the Stratified Random Sampling method in the first six months of 2016 (Table 1). Among all the 12 domains, the scores in “Coping Skills (willingness to seek help)” (3.60) and “Diversified Thinking” (3.59) were the highest, and the scores in “Courage” (2.92) and “Self-esteem” (3.09) were the lowest (Table 2).
Students with work experience considered “Related Working Skills” (34.3%), “Carefulness / Cautiousness” (14.6%), “Interpersonal Relationships” (11.1%) and “Communication Skills” (10.6%) important in workplace (Table 3). Their scores in all 12 domains of the EAT were higher than those without work experience, especially the scores in “Optimism”, “Diversified Thinking” and “Responsibility” which showed the differences were statistically significant (p<0.05) (Table 4).
When students planned their career paths, they sought advice from “Parents (or Guardians)” (61.8%) and “Friends” (50.9%) (Table 5). Those who had a better relationship with their parents were more inclined to pursue their study and demonstrate a higher employability (Table 6).
Conclusion and Suggestions
a. The employability of the youth would be affected by the changes of the society, economic situation and atmosphere. Hence, The Salvation Army Employment Service will continue to measure the employability of the youth service users. A territory-wide assessment and sampling survey of senior secondary students will be conducted biannually to continue the Cohort Study of their employability, which generates comprehensive data for the government, the business sector, schools, NGOs, youth and parents to review the policies and strategies for forward looking improvement of the employability of young people.
b. In the survey, the students treated their parents as key advisors on their life planning. Those who had a good relationship with parents and whose parents had reasonable expectations on their career plans showed a higher employability. The findings echo the belief of The Salvation Army that the family is the primary social arena in which a child establishes a core identity with which to enter adulthood. The Salvation Army Employment Service is going to provide services for parents, such as introduction on life planning and communication skills, in order to help them share their opinions with their children and make reasonable expectations on their children’s life planning.
c. Moreover, those students with work experience made higher scores in “Optimism”, “Diversified Thinking” and “Responsibility” than those without work experience. The Salvation Army Employment Service suggests that the government should encourage the business sector through social policies, taxation and public measures to provide more work exposure opportunities or placements for senior secondary students. It would help students know more about the requirements in workplace so as to increase their employability.
d. Last but not least, The Salvation Army Employment Service also suggests that the government should put work placement into the existing curriculum. It would raise the awareness of teachers, parents and students on the positive impact of work experience on employability apart from academic results. Support from the Education Bureau would help facilitate corporate-school cooperation and encourage private and public sectors to provide work placements to students.
Case: Natalie, a Form Four Student, Determines to Be a Top Tattooist
Natalie, who grows up in a middle-class family, is a Form Four arts student of a band one secondary school. Although her academic performance is above average, she aims to become a top tattooist. She says that every tattoo represents the value which the client holds. A tattooist helps to carve that important message on their skin. Natalie's father, an entrepreneur, and her mother, a full-time housewife, show great support to her decision. They are open to their daughter's life planning and transmit positive life attitude to her.
Case: Ms Tse Suk-wah, Supervisor of Careers Guidance of The Hong Kong Taoist Association Ching Chung Secondary School
Ms Tse said that work experience was valuable to students and suggested making job placements or work exposure activities (for Form Four or Five students for three to five days per year) compulsory, which could be shown on academic reports. Ms Tse agreed that life planning education to parents could be strengthened to help youngsters plan their career paths. She stressed that teachers should take up the role of debriefing the experience with students in the process. She suggested that the Education Bureau should allocate more resources to relieve the burden of teachers responsible for careers guidance, so that they could focus more on providing counselling to students and help them reflect on their career-related issues.