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Businesses take action to reduce youth unemployment

The report marks two years since the CIPD launched & lsquo;Learning to Work’ - a programme of work focused on increasing employer engagement with young people.

The report, Employers: Learning to Work with young people, highlights that although youth unemployment has begun to fall, this is in part due to a decreasing population of 18-24 year olds, more of whom are choosing to stay in full-time education, rather than a dramatic increase in those finding employment. However, despite revealing a less positive picture behind the recent employment statistics, further research has exposed a distinct shift in employer’s attitudes towards young people, which suggests that youth unemployment levels should continue to fall in the coming months.

Employers are increasingly undertaking a range of activities to help young people into work and develop their future talent pipelines. The report reveals that:

4 in 10 employers now offer work experience opportunities and over a third (37%) have increased their provision in the last 12 months.

Employers are beginning to adjust their recruitment practices to make them more youth-friendly, with 9 out of 10 now using social media to recruit young people and more than a third (36%) stating that they ask for no specific educational attainment for entry level roles.

The number of Apprenticeship places being offered by employers has more than doubled in recent years to more than half a million, with a further 14% of employers stating that they are planning to introduce them in 2014.

An increasing number of employers are reaching out to young jobseekers, including more than 1,500 HR professionals who are volunteering via the CIPD Steps Ahead Mentoring programme, to offer one to one employability support.

35% of employers now engage with local schools and colleges (compared with just 29% two years ago) and over 13,000 professionals are signed up to do talks in schools via the Inspiring the Future initiative, including more than 2,000 CIPD members.

A quarter of employers (24%) support youth social action programmes, which provide opportunities for young people to gain essential workplace skills.

Despite this progress, the CIPD is calling on employers, policy makers and education providers to work together to ensure engagement between employers and young people becomes the norm, so that youth unemployment levels continue to fall. As part of the Learning to Work programme the CIPD has outlined six key focal points for employers and HR professionals to encourage greater levels of engagement with young people and secure future talent pipelines. These are engage, prepare, experience, recruit, invest and measure and are all presented in the CIPD’s new Youth Engagement Map.

Katerina Rudiger, Head of Skills and Policy Campaigns at CIPD, comments, “When we first started the Learning to Work programme, words such as & lsquo;clueless’ and & lsquo;lazy’ were frequently used to describe young people entering the workplace and many employers were quick to blame schools and education providers for failing to prepare young people for the world of work. Today, we are pleased to see that the public debate focuses very much on the difficult education-to-work transition young people face when they first enter the labour market and it’s great to see so many employers stepping up their efforts to engage with young people, realising that they cannot sit back and expect to be passive consumers of the education system.

“The number of HR professionals who are eager to volunteer to help young jobseekers and school students is particularly encouraging, as is the increasing number of access routes, such as Apprenticeships, being offered. The employers we have worked with as part of our Learning to Work programme tell us that young people are a real asset to the workplace and bring unique skills and creativity. Those employers who do engage are creating future-ready talent pipelines and will be more likely to have the employee skills they need to succeed.

“We would urge employers of all shapes and sizes to continue to play a leading role in turning today’s young people into tomorrow’s workforce, but we recognise that Government has a role to play too. That’s why, in the run up to the General Election 2015, the CIPD’s & lsquo;Manifesto for Work’ calls on the Government to support opportunities that enable young people to succeed in the labour market, for example by facilitating higher quality careers guidance and creating more high-quality Apprenticeships.”

Barclays is one of the businesses that has significantly stepped up its efforts to invest in young people over the last few years, changing its recruitment approach from bringing in experienced workers and graduates to offering a variety of opportunities to young people from different backgrounds, including apprenticeships, traineeships and sponsored degree routes.

Mike Thompson, director (Early Careers) at Barclays, said, "At Barclays we have radically changed our approach to talent management and youth employment over the last two years. What we wanted was a complete culture change to address the fact that we had got out of the habit of bringing in and developing young people, especially those without academic qualifications.

"I would strongly recommend this approach to other employers, the success of our programmes speaks for itself. The whole business has got behind our young people and it's rewarding to see that we give young people access to opportunities they normally wouldn't have. We therefore strongly support the CIPD's Learning to Work programme and being part of this has helped us to bring insight on issues such as managing young people back into the business, which helps with the success of our programmes."

The support that individual employees, as well as employers, can provide to young people is also important. Sarah Austin, a CIPD member who volunteers to mentor young jobseekers via theSteps Ahead Mentoring programme in Newcastle, said: “Seeing the young person I mentored gain a job after 12 months of unemployment was hugely rewarding. The experience opened my eyes to the challenges many young people face when looking for work and I am proud to support the programme.”

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