Tackling Youth Unemployment

The current problem of youth unemployment is firmly placed on the radar of governments throughout the European Union – with some European countries facing levels soaring to 50%. Governments now realise the problem must be fully recognised and dealt with effectively as, not only is it detrimental to future economic growth to have have so much young talent going untapped, it also has an effect on the personal wellbeing and mental health of those young people who are long term unemployed as their confidence levels take a hit each time a job application or interview bears no fruit.

The term ‘youth unemployment’ refers to young people between the age ranges of 16 and 25 years old so, as well as school leavers, this also includes university graduates who are struggling to find positions to begin their graduate career.

What Can Be Done To Tackle The Problem Of Youth Unemployment?

Youth unemployment can’t be tackled by one body. Rather, it must be a collaboration on all levels starting right at the top with government initiatives, engagement with employers, looking at ways employers can recognise young talent for their vacant positions, education and training for those young people looking for work and finally, what is taught in schools.

At European Union Level

At the highest level, leaders of the member countries of the European Union recently met to discuss the growing problem of youth unemployment and have pledged 6 billion Euros to try to tackle the issues. Because of the current economic climate, cuts and austerity measures have led to higher numbers of young people out of work across the continent and it is hoped this money will begin to reverse that trend by encouraging companies to employ more school leavers and also increasing lending to small businesses so they, in turn, can take on more staff.

UK and Welsh Government Initiatives

In the United Kingdom, youth unemployment is currently around 20% and the Welsh and UK governments have started to work together on a joint initiative aimed at getting more young people into work. Welsh Secretary, David Jones and First Minister, Carwyn Jones recently attended a Jobs Summit in Newport, Gwent where employers and organisations such as Jobcentre Plus were invited along to discuss different ways of offering more work experience, internships and apprenticeships for young people.

One of the problems that was highlighted was not so much the lack of help out there for getting graduates and young people into work but the fact that there were so many separate initiatives amongst the different government bodies, young people are no longer sure what help is available to them. The Jobs Summit discussed ways of getting more coordination and communication so that different governmental departments, employers from local businesses and young people are aware of what resources are available to them.

In a recent BBC interview, director of the Job Centre Plus network in Wales, Martin Brown, said, “Every young person deserves a chance to get that first step onto the job ladder. If you have no experience, if you have nobody to give you a reference or act as a role model for you, some people find it really difficult. I need more employers to work with us and our organisations to offer opportunities to young people who have the potential to make a significant contribution to the economy in Wales.”

So employers from local businesses are also being encouraged to take part in tackling the problem of youth unemployment. The talent is out there but young people need to be given the chance to convince employers that they are up to the task. Offering short term work experience placements that can come with a strong chance of a paid contract at the end is one way companies can do this and also, perhaps reconsidering traditional interview processes by changing the format and posing alternative interview questions. We’ve written in the past about changes in legislation for unpaid internships so employers need to work closely with government departments and be committed to getting more young people into the workplace.

Long term youth unemployment is a problem in the United Kingdom, particularly in Wales, and there is currently a lot of combined effort going on in the country to get young people into jobs. Local businesses and councils are working together to encourage young people to try out different roles as getting them into the workplace is recognised as crucial for the future economic stability and growth of the country.

Preparing Young People For Work

These days, there are a growing number of young people who are third generation long term unemployed. These people often lack confidence as they feel they have no achievements to put on their CV that will attract employers. Many of them have also left high school with few or no GCSEs so it’s difficult for them to get an interview or even to know what to write on the initial application form.

Now however, drop in centres have been set up so that school leavers can go along, use the computers to look for work, attend booster sessions to get English and Maths levels up to scratch and also learn about tips for writing a good CV and filling in application forms.

Young people, whether they are school leavers, students or graduates often lose confidence when they apply for many jobs and they either receive rejection letters or hear nothing at all from the company they applied to. Potential employers can help people in this situation by providing feedback to applicants as to why they were not considered for a post on that particular occasion and also by making an active effort to take on younger people rather than ‘playing safe’ and taking on older, more experienced people who are often perceived as being more reliable.

The Jobs Summit in the Welsh city of Newport was aimed at tackling the issue of how employers can be encouraged to consider employing more young people.

What Young People Can Do

There are many young people in the UK who are long term unemployed and they need to be encouraged by careers services, council services and employers into the workplace. It’s critical that all sectors work together with young people to do this.

In the case of university graduates, because of the current economic climate, underemployment is an increasing problem and many are considering emigration in the hope of finding more career opportunities. Employers and governmental departments need to work together to encourage graduates into suitable roles that match their talents, skills and qualifications and graduates can make sure they highlight those in their applications.

As well as attending careers sessions and drop in centres to boost skills, voluntary work can also be undertaken so that those with little or no previous work experience can demonstrate to employers their willingness to take on work and learn about different roles. Voluntary work is a good boost for any CV and valuable experience that can be displayed on an application form.

What Employers Can Do

In working with local government departments some companies are taking an active role in combating youth unemployment by taking part in schemes where young people are given a work experience role for eight weeks. At the end of the eight week period, if the person has worked well and learned what is required of them, they are given a full time, paid job. While some candidates are unsuccessful – the job may not have been completely suitable for their talents – they can still go on to add something to their CV and apply for other roles.

Jobs Growth Wales, the Welsh government’s flagship scheme, has created 4,000 job opportunities by working with employers. The scheme also offers support to businesses that has so far totalled £80 million. A Business Start Up Programme has also created nearly 5,000 new businesses and this has created 10,700 new jobs as a result. This can only be more encouraging news for out of work graduates and young people who have left school or students looking for part time work.

What Schools And Colleges Can Do

Of course, employers need to be able to employ suitable candidates for their vacant positions if their companies are going to progress and contribute to the future growth of the United Kingdom’s economy. Schools and colleges can take more of an active role in encouraging students to undertake further study in the less popular subjects.

In his Huffington Post article ‘How Can We Encourage Young People To Pursue Engineering Courses And Careers To Preempt The Skills Shortage,’ Professor Andy Hopper, president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, suggests schools need to be more focussed in making the STEM subjects more attractive to young people.

STEM subjects are Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths and these subjects are often perceived by young people as being difficult, boring, hard work and nerdy. they are not the subjects that the rest of the ‘in crowd’ do so most students are reluctant to take them on. There is already a skills shortage in the workplace in these areas and that is growing all the time. Schools and colleges need to make these subjects fun and engaging so that students can go on to study these areas in higher education.

Part of that attraction could be an emphasis on the types of exciting and innovative graduate careers potentially available to those who choose this path. Aircraft and jet design, for example. Employers in these fields could work with the government, both locally and nationally to visit schools, colleges and universities and talk about their work. Likewise, day visits to places of work for students can be arranged so they can get a feel for the atmosphere and the surroundings.

For careers that are centred around the science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, transition from university to the workplace is crucial so that these graduates are not tempted away into other careers. Employers can play a big role in this by taking part in schemes like the ones above and by being innovative in their methods to attract young people.

Youth Unemployment And The Future Economy

Youth unemployment is not just an annoying and depressing problem for the school leavers, students and graduates of the United Kingdom; it’s also a huge problem for the future growth of the economy and development of the United Kingdom. In order to tackle and combat the problem, different government bodies, organisations and employers are responsible for pushing forward to work together and make sure talent of the youth does not go to waste…


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