Almost three in ten employers did not recruit a single young person in the last year

Leading employers, including Marks and Spencer, Deloitte, Nestlé, O2 and NHS Employers, have thrown their weight behind a new campaign launched today by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) designed to generate a step change in employers’ engagement with young people, in order to boost their employability and job prospects.

Research, conducted by the CIPD as part of its quarterly Labour Market Outlook series, finds that nearly three in ten employers did not recruit a single young person in the last year. But the CIPD has also repeatedly warned that a focus on short-term spikes in youth unemployment risks masking the more structural problems of youth unemployment, which persist in good times and bad.

Stephanie Bird, CIPD Director of Public Policy, said: “Our Learning to Work campaign will work with employers and policy makers to tackle this structural youth unemployment. We need a step change in the relationship and level of engagement between employers and young people. But we also need to move beyond constant complaining about the shortcomings of ‘the youth of today’, to real, practical, sleeves-rolled-up engagement by employers to boost the employability and job prospects of young people. This campaign is intended to do just that.”

Katerina Rüdiger, CIPD Skills Policy Adviser, said: “The real scandal of youth unemployment isn’t the high headline rates caused by the current weak economy. It is the gradual shift that has seen more and more young people struggling to find work in good times and bad.

“Some of the challenges are quite simple. We know there is a gap between negative perceptions of today’s school and college leavers and the reality of the talents and capabilities they have to offer. For example, through our pilot Steps Ahead mentoring programme in the West Midlands, we’ve seen that just a little help from people with experience of recruitment and management can help young people to improve the way they conduct and present themselves at interview, and avoid creating an impression that they have neither the skills nor the work ethic for the job. We also see more to be done in helping employers recognise the vested interest they have in boosting the job-ready skills of young people, and in boosting the supply of ‘young-people ready jobs’. Failure to rise to these challenges risks doing lasting damage to the global competitiveness of UK firms and the ability of the UK to attract investment and global firms to these shores.”

The campaign will work to engage leading employers and the CIPD’s 135,000 members with the critical role they can play in unlocking the door to the labour market for young people, by:
• Building closer links with schools and colleges
• Engaging with young people by giving them an early, high quality experience of working life
• Increasing the provision of a variety of access and progression routes into organisations
• Providing more opportunities for work-based learning and vocational education and training and
• Helping young jobseekers to navigate the labour market

The campaign, which launches today with the publication of Learning to Work – today’s young people, tomorrow’s workforce: Engaging employers in tackling youth unemployment, is supported by an advisory board that pulls together public and private sector employers along with leading organisations in the field, including City and Guilds, the Prince’s Trust, the Education and Employers Taskforce, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and the IPPR.

Learning to Work also pulls together existing CIPD work, including:
• The pilot Steps Ahead mentoring programme in the West Midlands, run in conjunction with Jobcentre Plus, which is putting volunteer CIPD members together with unemployed young people to provide a structured series of mentoring session to improve interview skills, presentation, confidence and other issues standing between the young person and a job prospects. So far the pilot has helped 65 young people to find work, structured work experience or apprenticeships and has received highly positive feedback from young people and mentors alike. Plans are in place to expand the project to cover the whole country.
• Detailed guidance for employers on how to run productive and effective internship, work experience and apprenticeship programmes.