Following my blog on the recent ONS labour market stats, and what this means for young people, I wanted to set out 4 key ways in which businesses can support young people and play their part in reducing the youth unemployment crisis we’re now witnessing. 

Employers have a fundamental contribution to make in tackling youth unemployment. They can provide key job opportunities which enable young people to enter the labour market, as well as engage with young people in other ways to help them prepare for the world of work. Not only is this socially and ethically progressive, it makes business sense. And it’s the solution we need for a speedy economic recovery. 

1. Utilise the new ‘KickStart Scheme’

Businesses can create new job placements through the Government’s new KickStart scheme, which provides funding for new jobs for 16 to 24 year olds who are on Universal Credit and are at risk of long term unemployment. Employers of all sizes can apply. Further funding is also available for training and support whilst on the scheme. Sport 4 Life UK can help with setting up placements, as well as delivering and supporting the training and employability for the young people.

See here for more information.

2. Employ more young people – the business case is strong

The business case for employing more young people is clear and compelling. Young people can enable businesses to mould their workforce to suit existing and emerging needs – especially if cohorts of their clients include younger generations. The use of technology has been a key differentiator for the survival of businesses – those who have failed to innovate have unfortunately been left behind. And as digital natives, young people bring this wealth of knowledge, understanding, creativity, innovation and energy that many organisations may not have known they needed. Young people can bridge the skills gap for any business who can’t currently unlock technology’s true value – which right now is vital for businesses as we head into the post-pandemic ‘new normal’.

Outside of digital, an increasingly young workforce also gives businesses a competitive advantage. Consumers exercise choices in favour of those organisations with positive social values – which includes those responding to the challenge of youth unemployment. In addition to this, there is strong evidence that recruiting and investing in young people encourages loyalty and reduces attrition – key long-term indicators of workforce success. And finally, the case for a more diverse workforce is as strong as ever – helping businesses make better and more informed decisions. And this diversity must include ‘age’ – with strong youth representation.

3. Make recruitment as youth friendly as possible

The way organisations recruit can potentially hinder young people’s employment chances. Recruiting informally, through networks – often less accessible to young people – can form a real barrier for young people in finding work. There is clear scope for employers to do more to ensure that their recruitment practices are youth friendly. Critically evaluating internal recruitment processes and policies is paramount to this progress. In particular, the use of qualifications should only be used as filters when absolutely necessary and when essential for the jobs in question. Companies such as Grant Thornton, PwC and Penguin Random House have already taken this step by removing the requirement for academic qualifications from their school leaver programmes, recruiting instead against skills, behaviours and competencies. Business can also sign up to the ‘Good Youth Employment Charter’ with our friends at Youth Employment UK:

4. Offer ‘encounters’ within the workplace

Young people need support to compete with older jobseekers, and action must concentrate on improving young people’s relative job prospects. Part of this solution includes hiring apprentices – allowing young people to gain work experience whilst still learning. By training apprentices from scratch, it works out as far more cost effective than bringing in and hiring already skilled staff, which in turn reduces overall training and recruitment costs. Apprenticeships also help companies recruit from outside their ‘original box’ of standard candidates.

In addition, businesses can promote a positive culture of exposing local young people (both current jobseekers, and those still in education) to the workplace through: mock interviews, career days, mentoring schemes or workplace tours. This will dramatically improve job prospects and increase earning potential for the young people involved. Building that bridge between education and employment is more important than ever if we are to ensure that we have access to more diverse, productive and successful workplaces.