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Preparing For the Workplace: School leavers and literacy.

Preparing For the Workplace: School leavers and literacy.

There is a lot taking place at this time of year. GCSE and A-Level results are out, places at university are being secured but for many young people here in the UK, going to University is not their chosen path and they have opted to go onto vocational courses or into the workplace. There are also many young people who find themselves not in education, employment, or training (NEET). In February 2022, the Office for National Statistics estimated that there are 692,000 young people who are ‘NEET’.

Literacy is important, but for some who are neurodiverse the focus on literacy skills can bring about anxiety. There is no doubt that our whole society literally relies on literacy skills to function in many ways. School staff tell pupils that literacy skills are essential for long-term careers and of course this is true but this can be a difficult message to hear when one is neurodiverse and experiences literacy challenges that gets in the way of learning.

For some time now organisations such as The Literacy Trust have sought to ‘take literacy from the classroom and into the workplace’ with their Words For Work initiative. They quote research that shows that young people entering the workplace often ‘lack the speaking and listening skills to communicate successfully.‘ They also state that 70% of employers rate literacy skills as one of their three most important considerations when recruiting schools and college leavers based on research from the CBI Education and Skills Annual Report 2018.

Since that report was published, the CBI published a report in 2021 in conjunction with Birkbeck College entitled “ Skills for an inclusive economy.” In this report that was published during the Pandemic, it would seem that employers views on literacy have started to change as they cite:

“ When recruiting school and college leavers and graduates, employers look far beyond qualifications. When asked to indicate the three key factors they (employers) look for when recruiting school and college leavers, 69% of employers rated soft skills and behaviours as among their top factors, and half (51%) selected literacy and numeracy skills. Four in ten selected academic qualifications (40%) and relevant work experience and business awareness (39%).”

This report seems to indicate that there appears to be a more balanced viewed amongst employers in how they select young employees who are new to the workplace.

What is nice about this is that for young people who are neurodiverse, their often strong ‘soft skills’ are now seen as valuable (if not more) than literacy for some employers. So if young people with neurodiversity are able to manage any literacy difficulties (that they may be experiencing) with tuition and the use of assistive technology then they stand to be strong contenders for workplace opportunities.

So what should school leavers who struggle with literacy do to manage their difficulties and allow their other skills to shine?

Here are three tips that could be useful:

1) Have hope! Your value to employers isn’t just about literacy.

Life in school and life in the workplace is very different. Literacy skills are important within the workplace but the workplace isn’t as prescriptive in terms of how you ‘do’ literacy. There are lots of different ways to be productive with literacy that the school environment will frown on but that works fine within the work environment, as the emphasis is more on productivity. If you are going for workplace interviews it makes sense to ask the employer about their thoughts on this and how they support neurodiversity in the workplace.

2) Find resources that can help you to manage your literacy difficulties.

Mentioned many times on this blog, a key resource to be aware of is the UK Government’s Access To Work Scheme that works with employers and employees who are neurodiverse to get the resources that they need to be able to function within their roles in the workplace.

3) Check out ‘Assistive Technology’, technology that can help overcome literacy barriers.

The team at Aventido can’t express enough how important assistive technology is in the process of helping someone who is neurodiverse unlock their potential at school, university, and indeed the workplace. The Access To Work Scheme (mentioned above) provides assistive technology that meets the various needs of those who apply. This technology often includes ‘text to speech technology ‘, see the video below for a demonstration of how TextAid, text to speech technology can help with reading and writing emails:

Coming up on the 7th September, our very own Mary Wilcox will be delivering the webinar ‘How to listen to any text using TextAid’. It is a free webinar and it will give you an in-depth insight into how text-to-speech technology could be useful to you.

There are other types of assistive technology available too and if you keep an eye on the Aventido ‘Events Page’ you will be able to join us for free online demonstrations and webinars that will tell you more about the technologies that are available.


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