Employers and education need to be better connected to break the “Catch 22” of youth employment

Recent research from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) – Catch 16-24: Youth Employment Challenge – casts interesting light on a familiar challenge facing many young people entering the labour market: At a time when employers are placing increasing value on prior work experience when recruiting, there has been a dramatic fall in the numbers of young people combining part-time work with their education.

The impact of the recession, as well as a suggested decline in the availability of part-time jobs such as newspaper rounds, is seen as being behind a halving of the numbers of 16 and 17 year olds who hold down a part-time job whilst in full time education.

Paradoxically, while 66% of employers say work experience is a critical or significant factor in their recruitment, the proportion of employers offering work experience placements to people in education is just 30%. The Catch 22 for young people is clear – and this situation surely contributes to the statistic that 40% of all unemployed people in the UK are aged under 25.

Perversely, this is all happening against a backdrop in which 1 in 5 vacancies in the UK are difficult to fill because of a lack of the right skills in the labour market!

The remedy is clear: the worlds of education and employment need to be better connected so that contact with the world of work becomes an ongoing part of every young person’s education.  

As the UKCES report authors note, there is a danger of a “post code lottery” developing depending on how well developed these links and opportunities are.  Here in Norfolk, the TEN Group academies and City College Norwich, are fully committed to ensuring that the young people we educate are given real opportunities for meaningful, skilled, work experience.

We also work closely and continuously with employers in all sectors to develop the intermediate and technical skills that many businesses are crying out for.  That is why we opened University Technical College Norfolk last September, to provide a route for young people in the county into high skilled engineering and related careers in the energy and advanced manufacturing sectors.  It is also why City College Norwich is a key partner in the exciting new Norwich International Aviation Academy.  

The TEN Group is also working with employers and young people to promote Apprenticeships as a key part of the solution too - so that Apprenticeships are recognised by young people and their parents as a high quality career pathway, and by employers as a great way to nurture and develop talent for their business.  

Further collaboration between education and employers is essential to breaking the “Catch 22”.  This is not only about creating additional work experience placements and Apprenticeships, but extends right down to what our curriculum looks like and making sure that we take every opportunity to link young people with the world of work.  

If the young people applying for the jobs in your business are not coming with the work experience you want to see, please do contact me directly and let’s talk about how we can work together to create more work experience opportunities.