Youth unemployment – what, as a community, can we be doing to help?

Sadly, when recession takes a grip on the country, statistics show that employers opt for experience over qualifications as training and budgets are cut and companies focus on costs and profits. The young are often passed over for applicants that can already demonstrate the desirable skills required. With the cost of pursuing a degree at university rising dramatically higher education is not an option for some – leaving us with a growing problem of helping the young people of the UK start meaningful careers and what to do with this increasing number of unemployed young people.

We all hear regularly about the increase in youth unemployment and how millions of 16-24 year olds are currently out of work. Alarmingly an item on the news last night was about the rise of young male suicides, a direct result of the rise of youth unemployment. Scary stuff.

Recently Sarah West Recruitment had 2 vacancies, with different companies, actively looking to employ someone recently out of education and looking for their first step into a new career. We were thrilled to be in a position to help a number of ‘lucky’ youths secure a meaningful role with a good local employer and convinced that this would be a relatively easy task. What happened, or rather, didn’t happen amazed us.

The role was advertised through our normal channels. There were no applications in the first week.

In a bid to drum up some interest we got in touch with Connexions – a Government department set up to support young people in finding apprenticeships, training and careers. They have a job board and also print out a list of opportunities, in the area, to hand out to young people that they support from their local office. Connexions also have a website where they can advertise. It took 3 days for the right person to call me back to discuss the role and a week later they advertised the position. They wouldn’t proactively contact people on their register to talk to them about the opportunities, a lack of manpower and too many meetings in the diary. A big fail for an organisation tasked with getting young people into work?

Using our initiative, we contacted Exeter College on the presumption that they must have a way of contacting students about to finish courses, or who have finished courses, and are looking for work. Not so, apparently, they do not offer a service to talk to current or previous students about jobs in the area.

The local paper in Exmouth, it seems, are not interested in running a story about business success and the resulting job opportunities in the area. The MP’s I contacted that cover the local area seem uninterested in a conversation about how we, as a community, can address the issues.

The result? The roles were filled by candidates that had more experience than the client was initially looking for, as opposed to those that had recently left education. Great for the successful candidates but a sad read for anyone that has left education and is looking for work.

So what is the issue?

There is poor communication between agencies, employers and young people in the area?

The lack of an organisation that is genuinely and proactively supporting young people and helping them find work, one that works at a pace in line with businesses in the area and is building relationships with the business community?

Issues within the education system?

The attitude of the youth of today?

We don’t pretend to fully understand the problem, nor profess to have the answer. Surely ‘we’ – the business community – should be pulling together to ensure that the local youth have every possible opportunity to get ahead?

What can we do? Got any ideas? The Sarah West Recruitment team are genuinely interested in having a conversation around how we can pull together to make a difference.


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