A group of young people, with some of the UK’s largest employers and policymakers, gathered together last week to share their experiences on how young people can access quality work, despite the impact of COVID-19 that looms over their immediate futures. This online event was part of the Inclusive Economy Partnership (IEP) BOOST programme, bringing together business, civil society and government to tackle the UK’s most pressing social and economic problems through cross-sector partnerships.
Young people were firmly in the lead at this event, with organisations attending hearing about what aspects of the market were working well, as well as those that needed to be better. A lack of education around job possibilities post-school, employers not having presence beyond major cities, and recognising how to bring creativity into more corporate roles were all included in the challenges identified. A key theme revealed was the lack of clear pathways for people who didn’t want to follow a route to university and then into employment. While apprenticeships are an obvious pathway, the group heard that experiences vary considerably and there is often not a clear pathway of further learning beyond the initial apprenticeship. To truly create an engaged and productive workplace, it was noted that we could all do well to consider what next looks like beyond apprenticeships, and how best we can replicate the best mentoring models we see in graduate programmes.
Solutions to these challenges do exist. We heard from IEP BOOST innovator, Toolshed, and from Movement to Work about the power of clearly defined learning pathways, and when complemented with an encouraging work environment, the meaning and confidence this can give young people. Tom Platt, Senior Decorator at Toolshed, who has been supported through their programme and is now a permanent part of the team, noted the importance of feeling like part of a family and having fun alongside learning as integral to what kept him at the company, in contrast to other experiences.
Businesses and civil society organisations attending the event participated in small group discussions to share their first hand insights across three three challenges:
- Attracting young people,
- Applying for work and getting work-ready
- Being an open and inclusive workplace.
These conversations created an opportunity for the knowledge and experience about what works and where the barriers are, to be shared.
We heard that often the channels for reaching young people for jobs are not inclusive, and still too often limited to pools of graduates or referrals. Traditional methods for recruitment – for example via broadsheets and overcomplicated and uninspiring job descriptions – can fall short in reaching a wider audience, with no less talent or commitment to finding work. Newer methods, like using social media and influencers to reach out to young people were likely to reach a greater number and diversity of candidates. and also engaging and supporting small businesses to work with young people.
We heard that job descriptions can feel impenetrable to very capable young people, leading them to lack the confidence required to apply. Contributors proposed that we should rethink job descriptions to be more human, have far less jargon and to resonate more with young people.
Companies should strive to retain and develop employees to flourish once they are there, instead of just focusing on attracting diverse talent to the door. This might take the form of mentoring relationships that help nurture young people’s personal talents instead of shoehorning them into pre-set expectations.
By unleashing the power of partnerships, the BOOST programme provides organisations with proven solutions to one of three social challenges – mental health, transitioning to work for young people and financial inclusion and capability – with the ‘boost’ they need to positively impact the lives of even more citizens across the UK. BOOST is delivered through a unique partnership between the government, civil society and business; the Cabinet Office and DCMS, the Young Foundation and EY.
If you would like to find out more about our work – and how to get involved in the Inclusive Economy Partnership BOOST programme, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.