Youth unemployment could be reduced by expanding apprenticeships

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With the latest figures showing youth unemployment has risen to approximately 949,000*, a new report released, makes recommendations for tackling the problem in the UK.

The report ‘Learning a Living’** from employment and skills experts Working Links, reveals that Apprenticeships and the type of skills these schemes help to develop are a highly effective route to getting young people into work. The report shows that 80%of employers believe Apprenticeships will help reduce youth unemployment and an overwhelming 100% of employers felt that Apprenticeships give young people the skills they need to find lasting work.

Controversially, traditional views of what skills employers look for when hiring young people were challenged by the report. Of the employers surveyed, 86% said they look for potential rather than experience when hiring young people and cited soft skills such as ‘a good attitude’ and ‘enthusiasm and motivation’ as key qualities in a potential work ready candidate. In fact, the report revealed that social and organisational skills were more important to employers than academic qualifications, with only 9% citing poor literacy and numeracy as a reason not to hire young people.

The report also highlighted the importance of pre-Apprenticeship training, with 97% of employers agreeing that this type of training is a useful first step for young people in developing the right skills and attitudes they need to begin an Apprenticeship and continue successfully in their career.

However, the report, which also surveyed young people across the UK, revealed that over two thirds (68%) are worried about their job prospects and 70% thought there were not enough apprenticeships to meet demand. The young people surveyed also felt that they are not getting enough advice from schools on vocational qualifications such as Apprenticeships – only 24% of young people were given advice on Apprenticeships, while 70% received information about college courses.

In response to the findings of the report, Working Links are making the following policy recommendations to the government to support the continued focus on apprenticeships and help more young people into work. Working Links recommends that the government should:

• Improve efforts to promote Apprenticeships to young people
• Fund more pre-Apprenticeship training to expand access to apprenticeships
• Pilot a payment by results programme for Apprenticeships within the Work Programme to help those furthest from the labour market
• Ensure these measures are extended to small businesses (47% of apprentices are employed by businesses which employ fewer than 25 people)
•Place a statutory obligation on schools to teach employability skills through the mainstream curriculum
•Place a legal duty on schools to explain the full educational offer (including Apprenticeships) available to young people of all abilities
•Do more to tackle the low levels of literacy and numeracy which employers feel are an issue for some young people – but not at the expense of the soft skills employers value most

Working Links works with employers and young people across Britain, helping to fulfil sustainable employment goals through pre-Apprenticeships, Apprenticeships and further skills and training programmes.

Mike Lee, Working Links’ Director of Skills, said: “It’s clear that both employers and the government see apprenticeships as crucial to reducing youth unemployment and recognise the positive impact these schemes have on society. Working Links is working with the government to help realise this vision and help young people into a future of sustainable employment.

“To achieve these goals it’s important to recognise the types of qualities and skills employers value most and how best to provide these to young people. The pre-apprenticeship training that Working Links is helping to deliver is especially key, as it’s the first step to ensuring candidates are work-ready and have the necessary soft skills needed to succeed.”

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