UK recruitment body, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), has launched the recommendations of its Youth Employment Taskforce. The taskforce was set up in 2009 to look at the urgent issue of youth employment. Chaired by Baroness Margaret Prosser, the taskforce includes representation from various employers, recruiters, education providers and trade unions.

The report looks at the steps that can be taken to get young people into work –whether it’s through training, apprenticeships, internships, work experience and making better use of funding and education as well.

Unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds is rife and currently accounts for a third of all unemployment in the UK. Without the chance to get that first foot on the career ladder, young people could find themselves stuck in an unemployment rut for years to come which will have serious social and economic consequences in years to come.

Practical recommendations include revamping careers services, stimulating demand for new staff, raising awareness of the changing employment landscape and harnessing different routes into work such internships and temporary assignments.

Commenting on the outcomes of the Taskforce, Baroness Prosser says:

“This is an issue which should concern us all. The direct cost of youth unemployment has been put at £4.7 billion a year and we know from previous recessions that significant periods of unemployment early in a young person’s working life have serious consequences on their future job prospects. In the current climate, we cannot expect any increase in Government funding.

“What we do expect is for funding to be effectively targeted and to deliver real progress. Employers, recruiters, welfare providers, Trade Unions and educationalists all have a critical role to play in addressing one the greatest challenges facing our society.”

The lack of work experience is a major barrier for young job-seekers entering a competitive jobs market.
Highlighting some of the key findings of the Taskforce, Kevin Green, the REC’s Chief Executive says:

“Young job-seekers are not getting the skills and experience they need to take the crucial first step onto the jobs ladder – as a country we are not building the talent pipeline that we need to compete over the next decade. The ‘expectations gap’ that currently exists between job-seekers and employers is a real challenge but is one that can be addressed by improving links between business and educationalists.

“The Government must do everything possible to facilitate job creation in the private sector. The cuts in public sector jobs have heightened the sense of urgency and the need for concrete action if we are to avoid the threat of a lost generation.”

The Taskforce is making a number of specific recommendations:

• A deep-rooted reform of careers services as they are not adequately preparing young people for the world of work. Young people must have at least some understanding of the world of work by the time they are 14.
• Specific targets and incentives for schools/education establishments to develop employer-led careers guidance – businesses and recruiters must play a role by investing time and resources in partnering with education providers.
• Government action to ensure that funded training schemes reflect the current and future skills needs of employers and that entrepreneurship is encouraged through better support and mentoring programmes.
• The creation of new ‘Technical Academies’ to offer vocational training and qualifications in growth industries and enhance perceptions of vocational options.
• Stimulating employment through a two year National Insurance holiday for each additional young person employed in the private sector.
• Pro-active campaigns to accelerate the take-up of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) – Progress is crucial for UK competitiveness.
• ‘Tapping into’ existing expertise to help overcome barriers. For example, professional recruiters can provide value-added expertise to job centres and careers services such as CV writing and interview skills.
• Making it easier for businesses to recruit through other ongoing measures – For example, by cutting red tape and simplifying taxation – as well as providing support for employers running internship and apprenticeship programmes.
• Using temporary employment as a stepping stone into the labour market by streamlining the benefits system and removing disincentives for job-seekers to take on short-term assignments that can often lead to other opportunities.
• Business and recruiters taking a lead in running more internship programmes and developing standards for the running of these schemes. Business organisations and trade bodies must also take a lead on this.
• Promote apprenticeships to older age groups and to develop models across an increasing number of sectors, particularly for service sector jobs. Sector Skills Councils must play a leading role here.