At the moment, many young people in the UK are finding it difficult to step onto the first rung of the career ladder. With growth stalling and continued economic turbulence in Europe, employers are cautious about hiring new staff; particularly those with little experience. Youth unemployment hovers stubbornly around the 1 million mark and competition is fierce for the openings that are available. Young people need all the help they can get to crack the jobs market, through coordinated action from government, business and educationalists. With this in mind, the requirement for schools to secure access to independent and impartial careers advice for their students from September is a step in the right direction.
A recent study by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Pearson education found that 42 per cent of firms had to provide remedial training to school and college leavers joining their organisations, with 61 per cent feeling young people had not developed at school the self-management skills needed for work. Much has been made of the Youth Contract, the government’s £1 billion flagship initiative to deal with high levels of youth unemployment. However, whilst it is great to see government taking the problem seriously it seems that too little has been done to tackle the structural issues around the transition between school and employment revealed by the CBI/Pearson study.
The Work Foundation’s recent ‘Lost in Transition’ report has also called for early intervention, stating that: “Action must be taken before and during the transition point from school to work to prevent young people becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training).” The REC has consistently argued that robust careers guidance and high quality work experience are central to preparing young people for the world of work. Careers guidance has to be a serious part of the curriculum from the end of key stage three, with a greater scope for business to get involved to help students understand local labour markets and the opportunities available. This was one of the recommendations of the REC’s Youth Employment Taskforce and our Youth Employment Charter for the recruitment industry illustrates that there the desire amongst businesses to give something back.
Simply finding young people first jobs is not the solution, as even those who find employment are often not adequately prepared for the world of work. Instead, we need to address educational and career preparedness for the long-term health of the labour market as well as the individual young people. REC Chief Executive Kevin Green explained this at the Work and Pensions Select Committee earlier this month, underlining the need to promote practical experience and awareness of the world of work and arguing that this is an area where government policy seems to be going in the wrong direction. With the introduction of the statutory responsibility of schools to secure access to independent and impartial careers advice from September, it looks like government is starting to listen.