Young people are either unable or taking longer to secure a first foot on the job ladder. In England alone, around 450,000 NEETs have yet to make the move from learning into work, outside casual or holiday jobs. There’s evidence that more employers expect applicants to be ‘job ready’ leading to a catch 22: no skills, no job; no job, no skills.
For the sake of all our futures, we need to close the growing gulf our young people face between leaving school and finding employment. In the current economic climate that’s a big ask, but employers unable to offer young people jobs or apprenticeships can still have a role.
At a recent Work Foundation event, Dr Anthony Mann, Director of Policy and Research at the Education and Employers Taskforce, pointed to a relationship between the extent of employer engagement arranged during school years (14-19) and the successful labour market progression of young adults (19-24). He found that each employer contact improved the odds of being non-NEET by 29 per cent.
The provision of work shadowing, mentoring, workplace visits or talks in schools all make a difference.
And, despite the current controversy, in interviews carried out as part of a recent Work Foundation report, one important area where long-term young unemployed people felt they had not received the support they needed was around access to opportunities like work experience. It’s just got to be offered in the right way, not exploitative but opening up new networks and avenues which could lead to a job.
There’s plenty of scope. For example last year, research by Demos found that ‘shockingly’ there is currently little to no engagement from local employers or businesses in school ‘career fairs’.
We all remember the person who gave us our first break. If you’re an employer, could you give a young person a helping hand – a connection to the world of work? As one young person quoted by The Work Foundation said “I love working, I love being busy…If someone could just give me a chance.”
Shaks Ghosh, Chief Executive, Private Equity Foundation