The REC was invited to give evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee on youth unemployment this week. This was an opportunity to showcase the positive contribution of recruiters to the UK labour market and economy and to ensure that the industry’s voice is at the forefront of this debate.

Questions honed in on the ‘expectations gap’ that exists between young job-seekers and employers. I underlined the need to promote practical experience and awareness of the world of work and argued that this is an area where Government policy seems to be going in the wrong direction.

Harriet Baldwin MP highlighted key sectors in her West Worcestershire constituency – IT, security, horticulture – where the main challenge for employers is the lack of skilled workers. A major theme of the session was the need to promote opportunities in high-demand sectors and to provide better careers guidance and support. This was one of the recommendations of the REC’s Youth Employment Taskforce in 2010 and is something we have continued to take forward in recent meetings with the Employment Minister Chris Grayling. There is a huge amount to be gained by tapping into the expertise of recruiters.

Glenda Jackson MP raised the issue of employers playing a more active role in training young people. This is an area where the wage subsidy within the Government’s ‘Youth Contract’ is having a positive effect with employers using this to provide the additional training. However, one of the challenges is that there are around 40 different funding streams linked to various employment schemes which can create real confusion amongst employers. Again, this is an area where recruiters can play a role – and demonstrate real added value – by helping to raise awareness amongst clients.

Discussions also focused on the role that the business community can play by working with schools and colleges to raise awareness of the world of work. Recruiters are already helping to make a real difference and initiatives such as the REC’s Youth Employment Charter for the recruitment industry are helping to showcase this positive contribution.

The invitation to give evidence on this crucial issue was in itself a major endorsement for the work of the REC and our members in this area. Recruiters speak to employers and job-seekers everyday and our industry has a key role to play in flagging current and future skills needs and in helping to address practical barriers

Being at the forefront of this debate has already been hugely beneficial in amplifying our voice to Government. As always, the input and case studies provided by REC and IRP members drive our work and we will continue to actively promote the benefits of tapping into the expertise and contacts of recruitment professionals.

The invitation to address the Select Committee came on the back of the REC’s pro-active work on this crucial issue following the Youth Employment Taskforce in 2010 and the subsequent launch of the Youth Employment Charter for the recruitment industry. The aim is to encourage recruiters to get involved with local schools and colleges and to showcase examples of recruiters already making a real difference on the ground.