The 28th May saw a first. That is, the first (hopefully of many) formal meeting between government and employers from the newly formed Energy & Efficiency Industrial Partnership (the Partnership). The topic for discussion was how government and employers could work together to address the various, unrelenting barriers facing young people entering the labour market.
As we know, getting a job these days isn’t easy for young people. This is especially so when instead of a string of good GCSEs and work experience your CV contains a criminal record. To address this, employers from the Partnership are developing schemes to provide specific groups, such as young offenders, with tailored training and work experience in the energy and utilities sector.
However, what became clear at the roundtable was that for young people ‘furthest away from the labour market’, getting work experience isn’t the end of the story. Instead the odds stacked against them take many forms - they include unstable home environments, and the lack of overall support mechanisms. These barriers really came to life when we heard about a young trainee who was late for work because his parents destroyed his alarm clock.
We also heard about the negative cycle of community, especially the hindering effect unsupportive communities have on young people. But good jobs can also create a positive cycle within communities, and young people progressing well can encourage others to strive to improve themselves. This is what we should be aiming for.
Employers at the meeting admitted having difficulties dealing with young people from tough backgrounds. Without awareness of these social issues, employers could easily attribute these problems to the ‘poor attitudes’ of young people. In many cases this couldn’t be further from the truth, and many employers could benefit from guidance and support in recruiting young people.
So what can be done? This is where collaboration is crucial. We need to see government and employers to continue to work together to develop schemes reflecting the needs of both employers and young people.
We also need employers to work together to produce long-term schemes leading to long-term careers for young people. The Partnership is the first of several attempts to bring together employers to transform the skills system in their industries. One way of doing that is taking young people seriously and tapping into the potential they offer.
To take young people seriously we must recognise and address the barriers they face to getting into work. We need to accompany training and work experience with holistic support schemes to ensure they make the most of these learning experiences. Not Just Making Tea, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ guide to good quality work experience shows many ways employers can do this. Our latest report, Precarious futures? Youth employment in an international context, highlights that small jobs make a big difference to young people, and shows how the UK is falling behind other nations in giving young people opportunities to gain experience of the workplace while still in education.
Employers can also get more involved with colleges in their areas to help ensure students get the skills required in the workplace. A New Conversation: employer and college engagement, details the need for more and better collaboration in this area.
Working more with young people and education will benefit, not burden, employers – allowing them to make the most of the future talent that will sustain their workforce