Here in the UK, youth unemployment is a serious issue. Figures show that nearly 1m 16-24 year olds were unemployed between June and August this year. Youth unemployment has nearly quadrupled in the last decade. Why is this? It appears there is no one single reason. Careers advice in schools isn’t where it needs to be. There is a mismatch between the skills school leavers have, and what employers are looking for. People are retiring later meaning fewer entry level jobs. There are clearly economic factors at play, but whilst this is part of the reason for youth unemployment it’s far from the whole story. I saw Lynda Gratton speak recently. She holds the view that youth unemployment isn’t cyclical, it’s structural.
Whatever view you hold, the issue needs to be tackled, and employers need to share the responsibility.
There are employers doing good stuff in this space. This afternoon I’ve heard from Barclays and Hilton about their strategies. How they are recruiting, engaging and developing young people in their organisations. I’ve no criticisms of their programmes, which are delivering for them and provide a guide for others. But more needs to be done to fill the gaps.
As HR professionals we have a part to play. The CIPD’s ‘Inspiring the Future’ programme involves HR professionals reaching out to schools, providing valuable support on interviewing, job applications, writing CVs. There are around 2000 people at the CIPD conference this week. Imagine if every delegate gave just two hours of their time to school leavers in their nearest school?
Little gestures add up to big changes.
During my years working in HR, I’ve seen reluctance from line managers to take on young people. They want the candidate that ticks all the boxes already. They don’t want to, or simply don’t have the time, to fill the skills gap. I get this. When resources are scarce thinking about the greater common good isn’t top of the list of priorities. But we do need to find a way to engage with our unemployed youth. They are our future talent, future customers, future economic growth.
The government can’t solve the whole problem. Neither alone can schools, universities or employers. It will require a joint effort.
So if you are a HR pro reading this today, you may not be able to launch a big apprentice programme. You may not be able to hire some graduates. But you might be able to give a few hours to your local school, or mentor a young unemployed person.
Let HR lead the way.