Employers satisfied with skills and abilities of young workers
According to a recent survey carried out in Hungary among 3,200 companies, apprentices and young skilled workers have improved their practical abilities, professional skills and theoretical knowledge between 2000 and 2005. Nevertheless, certain areas progressed more than others; for instance, foreign language skills and knowledge of mathematics and economics remain weak. Overall, young workers have a good work attitude and perform well in teams.
In the autumn of 2005, the Research Institute of Economics and Enterprises of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Magyar Gazdasági és Iparkamara Gazdaság- és Vállalkozáselemzo Intézet, GVI) carried out a survey among companies to assess the employers’ satisfaction with the abilities and knowledge of apprentices and young skilled workers at the start of their careers.
The survey was conducted between September and November 2005, including a sample of 3,196 companies, which represent more than 72,000 employees in total. Most of the companies in the sample employ two to nine employees, and only about 5% of them have more than 50 workers.
To assess the employers’ satisfaction with the knowledge, abilities and skills of apprentices and young skilled workers, employers were asked to evaluate these qualities using a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 represented complete satisfaction and 1 corresponded to a negative assessment. Relevant data from previous surveys are also available, which allows an assessment of the employers’ satisfaction with apprentices and young skilled workers over time.
According to the company owners and managers surveyed, the theoretical and practical knowledge of young employees who have just finished their studies has improved significantly in the last five years. Their professional training also better meets the requirements of employers.
The Figure below illustrates the averages on the 5-level scale of the employers’ assessment between 2000 and 2005.
Satisfaction with knowledge, abilities and skills of young skilled workers, 2000–2005 (Averages on 5-level scale)
Source: GVI, 2005
The averages shown in the Figure disguise considerable differences in the knowledge, abilities and skills of young workers starting their career. For instance, employers were most satisfied with the team work and problem-solving skills of these workers, whereas no significant increase was found in relation to satisfaction with their knowledge of mathematics and economics in the last years. Although their knowledge of foreign languages is improving, the average score given by the employers is still only 2.8 on the 5-level scale. Overall, the average appraisal rating of apprentices and those embarking on their career has grown from 3.05 to 3.48 on the 5-level scale, which represents an overall increased appraisal rating of almost 9% since 2000.
Main skills and abilities assessed
When comparing the abilities and skills of apprentices and career starters, employers’ satisfaction levels differ widely in relation to the standard of general and mathematical knowledge, oral and writing skills in Hungarian and computer skills. The differences are less pronounced in respect of the young people’s knowledge of economics and foreign languages, as the employers are almost equally dissatisfied with both groups of young workers in this regard.
Some 44.2% of the employers surveyed believe that the general education of apprentices is good, while 50.3% of employers think the same about skilled workers starting their career. Similar differences emerge between the two groups in relation to computer skills: 48% of employers are satisfied with apprentices in this domain, while 53.8% of employers find the computer skills of young skilled workers to be satisfactory. The perceived difference of technical and professional theoretical knowledge between the two groups is more balanced. Nevertheless, 33.4% of company managers remain dissatisfied with the economics knowledge of career starters and 34.6% of managers express dissatisfaction with the knowledge of apprentices in this area.
Foreign language and numerical skills
In total, 44% of the employers are dissatisfied with young people’s knowledge of foreign languages. This can be explained by inadequate language training in Hungary and the lack of foreign language skills among career starters. It should be noted that the survey focused on skilled workers and apprentices who attended, or are attending, vocational secondary schools that place little emphasis on the teaching of foreign languages.
The respondents also found that the mathematical knowledge among young people is poor: 17% of employers surveyed were dissatisfied with career starters and 22% of employers were unhappy with apprentices in this respect. The rates of dissatisfaction with Hungarian oral and writing skills were 8.6% for career starters and 11.7% for apprentices.
Company representatives were most satisfied with the attitude to work of both apprentices and career starters. According to the answers of company managers, the cooperative ability of young people is excellent: 72.9% of the respondents hold this opinion about career starters and 68.6% of responses expressed this view about apprentices. Young people’s work discipline is also considered to be good, according to 63.8% of employers in relation to career starters and 59.8% of employers in respect of apprentices.
The most significant inadequacy in this area was found in the ability to work independently. The employers reported that as many as 16.2% of the career starters and 19.1% of the apprentices in their experience were unable to work without the instructions of an older worker.
Some 23.1% of the enterprises surveyed have employed career starters in the last two years. In general, young skilled workers were more likely to be employed in medium-sized enterprises than smaller ones. The number of career starters employed differs by economic sector. Most of the career starters found employment in the area of commerce (three on average per company), while fewer work in tourism or in the services sector.
With regard to recruitment plans, the survey reveals that 10% of the companies plan to employ a young person at the start of their career during 2006.
Survey of companies regarding satisfaction with young skilled workers and apprentices, GVI, 2005.
Katalin Balogh and Zsuzsa Kiss, Institute for Political Science, Hungarian Academy of Sciences