By Jonathan Davies

Businesses in Wales are being urged to offer more work experience after a major study found that job experience is the most valued asset employers look for when hiring.

Almost two thirds of Welsh employers (63%) said they regarded relevant work experience as either a significant or critical requirement among those applying to join their workforces.

But less than four in ten (39%) provide placement opportunities and only 31% offer such opportunities to those still in education.

The figures emerged from a survey of just over 2,000 employers across Wales carried out by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) as part of a wider study encompassing a total of 18,000 UK employers.

The figures showed that 66% of recruiting organisations had hired one or more 16 — 24 year olds in the past year though only 31% had given jobs to those who had just completed their education.

When asked how well prepared for work they found 17-18 year old education leavers, employers found students from further education more highly prepared than those straight from school.

While 59% said they found 17-18 year old school leavers either well-prepared or very well-prepared for work, 75% said they found further education leavers to be similarly job-ready. Among university leavers, who typically would be two or three years older, the figure rose to 82%.

Two thirds of Welsh employers (67%) said they provided staff training, with 55% offering internal training but a considerable proportion of employers said they use external organisations to deliver their training (42%).

The findings show that 13% of all Welsh employers currently offer formal apprenticeships with twenty-nine per cent saying that they plan to offer formal apprenticeships in the future.

The importance of work experience in the recruitment process emerged from employer’s responses to a question on the attributes they look for in job applicants. 63% noted relevant work experience to be critical or significant compared with 47% who said they looked for vocational qualifications and 42% who looked for academic qualifications. GCSE maths and English was the 2nd highest answer with 52% of Welsh employers saying it was a critical or significant attribute.

Wales Commissioner for Employmeny and Skills Scott Waddington said the figures underlined the importance of giving young people the opportunity to gain meaningful experience of jobs in which they have a potential career interest.

Mr Waddington said: "Clearly employers feel more comfortable hiring those who have some experience of their industry or job type so extending more opportunities to young people in education will help match the right people to the right jobs and help employers themselves find good calibre and well-motivated recruits."