Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Kevin Brady: What can job sites do to tackle youth unemployment?

Youth unemployment is an ongoing issue in the UK. Although the situation isn’t as bad as on the continent, there is still plenty of cause for concern in this area.

Young people face a unique set of circumstances in 2016 and with unemployment for 16-24 year olds standing at 15.4%, it’s clear we’ve a long way to go. Although the official employment rate stands at a record 74.5%, workers in this age bracket are three times more likely to be out of work than other workers.

I’ve recently discussed the impact of zero hour contracts on the job market. Whilst official figures show the youth unemployment rate improving since the global recession, 36% of zero hour contracts in the UK are taken up by young workers. This also raises questions about the types of career options available to young people.

Moreover, it’s not simply a question of young people not getting good grades at school. We know this from the frequent reports of intelligent graduates forced to undergo extreme measures to find relevant work.

It’s also no secret that students’ choice of university and degree also significantly affects their attractiveness to employers.

Apprentices also encounter problems. Too often they find themselves asking: will I get a guarantee of permanent work in my chosen career path once my apprenticeship is over?

These are all difficult questions without one-size-fits-all solutions. That said is there anything that recruiters and job sites can do to help? Absolutely.

The main issue facing young workers is a lack of experience. We therefore need to help aid and empower young people by giving them as much information as possible about different career paths and what options they have available to them.

Too many job ads fail to cast their net wide enough by failing to consider workers that may have some but not all of the necessary experience. Employers also sometimes fail to recognise the value of transferable skills graduates often develop over the course of a three-year undergraduate degree.  

Internships, volunteering and part-time work are often invaluable experiences to have on the CVs of graduates in particular. In an increasingly competitive jobs market we need to encourage young people to consider this reality early on.

They should also know that if they later find they’ve made a mistake in the career path they’ve chosen, all’s not lost as career switching is becoming more common than ever before. Their previous experience, even if not completely relevant, will not be in vain.

Hiring young workers is an investment and, like all investments, a degree of patience is required. However we’d all do well to pay greater attention to the long-term rewards.