The pandemic had a huge impact on employment, the economy, and the world as we knew it. Most people began to work from home, many for the first time. Some industries, such as hospitality and tourism, shut down and in many parts of the world are still ‘paused’ for the most part. Because of this, the world of recruitment slowed down considerably, for both candidates and their potential employers. 

But recruitment did not stop entirely, and candidates certainly did not stop thinking about their careers, their skills, and their future. Michael Page Africa surveyed 724 job applicants across the continent from January 18th to March 16th 2021 to discover their thoughts on their skill sets, training & development, and on what they think are the top soft skills employers are looking for in 2021.

The results are in, and they might surprise you.  

Candidates are confident in their skills 

One statistic that stands out is a very simple one. We asked our job applicants if they thought they had the skill set they needed for today’s market, and even though 33% are currently unemployed, 98% think they have the skills they need.   

Why is this? Julien Raze, Head of Africa at Michael Page says, “We cannot give you an exact answer, but what we can tell you is that this generation of job applicants takes training seriously, whether there is a global health crisis raging or not.” 50% of applicants participated in a webinar and a huge 51% took a training course since the start of the pandemic – but not because of the pandemic, because they usually take trainings.   

20% of our respondents participated in a webinar and 12% took trainings because of the crisis, with 34% of applicants explaining they did not take any training or attend webinars at all.

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Improve and develop skills for today, and tomorrow 

What were the reasons behind Michael Page’s job applicants taking the training? In general, our respondents took training to improve their current skills (64%), develop new skills related to their role (52%), or to prepare for better roles in the future (40%). These reasons are all very practical and show that many of our job applicants are satisfied in their sector for the moment, as only 21% are learning new skills for a sector change.   

41% of Michael Page applicants used their time to gain knowledge on interesting topics not related to their expertise, perhaps to make themselves seem more rounded when interviewing for a new role. 14% of our applicants developed new skills not related to their role, supporting the view that some candidates are trying to build up a well-rounded profile for the current job market. Only 16% of our job applicants learnt new skills for certification or exams related to their role. 

To share development or not to share, that is the question 

And the candidate answer is, in general, to share development through their CV (53%), on social media (31%), or with their manager (29%), with a surprising 20% of applicants not sharing their development at all with other people. 16% shared their development with their HR department. Why does the sharing of skills development seem so fractured? “It could come from where the realisation of their skills gap came from, and a recruitment consultancy like Michael Page Africa can help companies identify people with the skills they are looking for, through our assessment processes”, says Julien.    

77% of Michael Page’s job applicants found their skills gap through self-reflection in the context of the job market. This idea is supported by the 41% of respondents who upgraded their skills after comparing themselves to the market.   

“It shows that candidates today are capable and happy to judge themselves against the market, and that they feel they have the skills they need to be successful”, adds Julien. When we asked our job applicants how their last manager talked about training, only 41% recommended regular training, and just 15% required training once or twice a year.   

With 25% of our job applicants’ last managers not talking at all about training, and 19% considering it optional, it seems as though candidates take their learning and development seriously and are willing to change roles to change this. 

How, when, and where do job applicants want to learn?  

For job applicants, the quality of the training is a key consideration. 57% say the reputation of the training provider is very important, 19% say it is fairly important –  20% say the content is more important than the provider.   

So, how would Michael Page’s job applicants like to learn? We split our question into three blocks of technological skills, social skills, and cognitive skills, and then asked how they would like the training delivered.  

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Overall, job applicants want any kind of training delivered with remote, live sessions. 26% want technological skills sessions like this, with 25% wanting social training the same way, and 24% also wanting cognitive skills lessons delivered the same. Classroom settings were the second favoured style of Learning & Development delivery.  

An average of 16% of job applicants want professional feedback given by a teacher, highlighting that personal touch is still very important to job applicants, and a great way for employers to offer what candidates want.   

Beyond what candidates want, which soft skills do job applicants think their potential future employers are looking for? The top skill Michael Page’s job applicants in Africa selected is communications, with 61% putting that first. Following this closely is teamwork, with 56%, and rounding out the top three is problem solving skills, on 51%. Julien says, “These soft skills highlight that candidates think potential employers are looking for good communicators who work well in a team and can readily solve problems”. Is that the candidate you are looking for today?    

If you would like to talk to one of our expert consultants about how Michael Page Africa can help you find the right talent for your organisation, or to talk about the results of our latest survey, get in touch today, here.

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