Stories of the ‘lost generation’ of young, unemployed people have been well documented in the media. Statistics, however, do back up these stories, with recent analysis published by the TUC (Trades Union Congress) finding that 18-24 year olds are much less likely to be in work today than before the recession hit in 2008.
Moreover, the report also noted that the under-25 age group has seen the sharpest fall in job prospects of any age group in the working population. A huge 395,000 jobs would need to be created to return employment in this group to 2008 levels.
To try and solve these problems, the TUC recommends that there needs to be a ‘bold new approach’ to support young job seekers, and questioned the effectiveness of current schemes such as the Work Programme and Youth Contract.
“Young people today are suffering a shortfall of nearly half a million jobs since the eve of the recession, and their prospects have deteriorated even further over the last few years,” explained TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
However, a study by the CIPD entitled, ‘Employers are from Mars, Young People are from Venus’, believes there are more deep rooted issues stopping young people entering the job market. It is not just the simple lack of available jobs.
Instead, the CIPD highlighted a number of issues that they believe contribute to youth unemployment. These include: a lack of work experience; a lack of feedback on application forms and interview technique; problems making the transition from education; and the lack of good quality career advice in schools and colleges.
Peter Cheese, CIPD Chief Executive, said: “Too many young people are struggling to find their first job, whereas many employers are finding it difficult to get the skills they need. This mismatch needs to be addressed, not only to reduce youth unemployment and the long-term impact it can have on young people, but also to ensure UK businesses are equipped with the right talent for the future.”
One way for employers to help young people successfully enter the job market is to be realistic about their expectations of young people and to recruit for potential as opposed to competence. Young people applying for their first role after education frequently struggle in traditional competence-based interviews as they have a lack of examples to fall back on.
Instead, forward-thinking employers such as Nestle have already altered their recruitment process for young people to a ‘strengths-based’ recruitment and selection process. The rationale behind this is that:
“When people are exhibiting a strength, they enjoy doing it, are good at doing it and are energised by it. Research tells us if individuals are doing things they are good at, and enjoy doing them, (then) there are lots of benefits to the organisation. For example, reductions in stress, turnover, absenteeism and (also) higher performance.’ said Mike Stripe, Group HR director, Nestle.
Once recruited, it is important that employers put a robust learning and development programme in place to ensure that young people feel supported in their new role; either building the function internally or employing one of many learning and development specialist organisations on the market. Depending on the role, the programme will vary, but for example a young person working in an office-based role may benefit from some business skills training in time management and office skills training in Microsoft products. The exact learning needs will vary from young person to young person.
One development intervention that is extremely beneficial to all young people regardless of job or learning needs is to give them a trained mentor. A mentor can offer a young person additional support, guidance and pastoral care, which is also removed from the young person’s direct line management chain. They can also act as a role model and inspiration for career progression.
By offering just a small amount of support to young people entering the work place, it can make a significant difference to their success. This in turn benefits employers who have an engaged and motivated workforce. It also makes them feel much more positive about taking young people on in the future and in turn may lead to the reduction of unemployment.