A recent report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills shows that youth unemployment began to rise in 2004, well before the recession. So, while the recession has had a major impact on young people’s chances for employment, it’s clear that there is something else going on. The fact is the labour market is changing for young people, and while many employers are responding to this – there is still so much more we could do.
It seems everyone has an opinion on how work ready young people are – and unfortunately, the myth persists that they are not well prepared for work.
But according to the UKCES report the lack of work readiness of young people is actually often overstated, and of the employers who do recruit people straight from school, college or university, they generally find them very well prepared for work. Of those employers taking on the youngest (16 year old) school leavers, 60% find them well or very well prepared for work. This rises to over 80% per cent of those employers taking on graduates.
Why is it that young people find it so difficult to enter the workplace?
Well firstly informal methods such as recommendations from personal contacts are still a major way for people to find work. These informal connections tend to be built up over time and through experience of work, so young people are far less likely to have them. Those that don’t are at a significant disadvantage.
Secondly employers really value experience when selecting candidates. But this can result in a Catch-22 situation: where young people can’t get work because of a lack of experience, and can’t get experience without having work.
Furthermore, young people are now less likely to have a part-time job while learning (the proportion of 16 and 17 year old full-time learners who study and work has fallen from 40% in the late 90s, to 20% today). This means that they are less experienced when they do enter the labour market.
Recruitment practices are a major part of the story. But perhaps the biggest part is the fact that the structure of the labour market itself is changing in terms of the type of jobs that are available
Many of the jobs that young people do (elementary occupations such as waiters and bar staff and sales and customer service occupations such as retail assistants) have been suffering from a long-term decline. They have been hit hard by the recession and are forecast to stagnate or decline further over the next decade.
How can we change this situation?
There are significant benefits from recruiting young people:
- Help your business enter new markets
- Young people can bring fresh ideas and approaches which open up new and emerging customers groups and markets.
- Reduce staff/recruitment costs
- Young people are cost effective to recruit and to train. Apprentices for example pay for themselves very quickly – see how here.
- Work placements can often serve as an informal trial period, ensuring any commitment to a permanent position is well informed on both sides.
- Grow your own talent
- Working with young people helps with succession planning – they learn the culture and the direction of the company, and it is often far cheaper to recruit from within than bring someone in from outside.
- Support business growth
- Young people are flexible in terms of their work patterns and can be more willing to move an work in different locations around the country. They bring creatively, innovation and a willingness to learn – which will all contribute to help your business to grow.
You may be thinking that, however enthusiastic and cheerful they are, young people will still lack the skills and attitudes necessary to make an effective contribution to your business. This perception is the reason why some employers tend to shy away from taking on young people. But out of those that do, the majority find their young recruits well prepared.
Investors in People could support you if you are interested in how to maximise the talents of young people in your organisation. As discussed in our previous blog, we can work with you to ensure you have recruitment practices which allow you to attract the best talent in the market, and how you can then retain and encourage your people to be the best they can be – both for themselves and for your company.
If you have a story to share about how the recruitment of a young person has helped your business we’d be very interested to hear from you!