Businesses must step up their investment and engagement with young people in order to build their talent pipeline according to a panel of employers and experts on skills and employment, including the Minister for Employment Relations, Jo Swinson.

Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)’s Annual Conference, Jo Swinson indicated that there is a need to redefine the status of apprenticeships so that they are not seen as a poor alternative to university education.

She commented:

“Supporting the country’s young people and helping them to get the skills they need to secure jobs is a key Government commitment.

“Apprenticeships are at the very heart of our drive to equip people of all ages with the skills employers need to prosper and compete in a global market and recent statistics show that record numbers have been taking up apprenticeships. Our Youth Contract has already supported over half a million young people by helping them gain access to training and other opportunities. There is more do to and leadership from organisations such as the CIPD is key to ensuring that there remains a focus on supporting young people and helping them get into work.”

Peter Cheese, CEO at the CIPD, chaired the panel discussion and concluded:

“The labour market is in the midst of huge change and our research shows that businesses need young people as much as young people need jobs. Many employers have started to realise that it is in their interest to bring more young people into their organisations and invest in tomorrow’s workforce by engaging with education to help build the skills needed. But many more still struggle to do this and levels of youth unemployment, and under-employment, remain worryingly high.

“The onus must be on employers, and particularly the HR profession, to help business unblock the talent pipeline that’s crucial to their future success.”