What young people need more than anything is work experience

A few weeks ago I was in the Titanic Building in Belfast right next to the dock where the famous ship was built in 1912.

At the time, Harland Wolff was one of the world largest ship builders, Nike Air Max 98 844694-600 Men Red Grey White Ireland Sale employing nearly a quarter of the working population of Belfast. There was a well worn path from the school gate to H and many people took it.

Today the picture is very different, not just in Belfast, but across the whole of the UK and Buy Adidas NMD X Footlocker Unisex Black Red Online in many developed Western economies. For young people leaving school these days the path is neither straight nor well trodden. Instead it turned into a delta of small, winding tracks that lead in different directions. The sad fact is that for around one fifth of young people today the path leads to listless and damaging unemployment.

That why the Henry Jackson Initiative with Sir Alec Reed have teamed up with the Telegraph Media Group to launch our essay competition on how to solve youth unemployment, with a 10,000 prize.

The first instinct is to blame the recession for the problem, and it true the recession has made the problem worse. But it not the cause, and we can assume that the recovery, whenever it comes, will fix the problem. The real causes are persistent and structural.

In the first instance, many of the entry level jobs that have traditionally helped young people into work waiters, bar staff, retail assistants and so on are stagnating or in long term decline. That makes it much harder for young people to take their first steps onto the career ladder.

Even when they do it become harder to progress. Businesses need more flexibility in a changing world. Their customers expect it, and competitive markets demand it. This explains the trend towards more part time roles at the highest level since records began, and the outsourcing of non core tasks. Economists agree that the flexibility of our labour market has helped our economy including during the recent downturn, when unemployment rose less than in many other countries. The downside is that we are creating too many jobs offering less training, less stability and less opportunity for promotion.

There an increasing number of low skill jobs at the bottom end, and a shortage of suitable people for Air Jordan 1 High OG 3 What 575441-026 Unisex Black Blue White Sale Ireland skill professional roles at the top end with too few good routes for progression from one to the other. Graduates can end up doing bar work not just for a season, but for many years.

This fuels a myth, perpetuated by some, that young people are work shy, unwilling or unable to hold down a responsible job. In reality, relatively few employers are qualified to voice this opinion since only a quarter have actually recruited a young person direct from education in the past two to three years. Of those that have, most are happy with their new recruits.

When employers don find young people well prepared for work, their complaints are not usually about literacy, numeracy or attitude. Their biggest concern is simply lack of experience. Most young people are ready, willing and able to dive into work. What they need, more than anything, is experience.

Employers, particularly smaller businesses, understandably value experience when selecting staff, leaving young people in a catch 22 situation no experience, no job; no job, no experience. And trends in education aren helping the proportion of 16 and 17 year olds combining full time study with part time work has halved, Buy Adidas NMD X Footlocker Unisex Black Red Online from 40pc in the late 1990s, to around 20pc today. This „death of the Saturday job“ has been exacerbated by the recent rise in (adult) part time working, meaning young people are competing with older, more experienced adults for limited opportunities.

So, if that the problem, what the solution? There are no quick fixes, and the answers must come from businesses. Politicians need to encourage and enable, but also to resist the temptation to create schemes which employers join only because of the subsidy on offer.

At the UK Commission for Employment and Skills we are seeing many positive examples of businesses taking real ownership for skills development and good job creation.

Employers accepting this responsibility is the only way to achieve lasting impact and sustainable employment. This is not about altruism, it about good business. Where employers make a point of recruiting young people, they do so because they find them willing to learn new skills, to work differently and to bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the workplace. In other words, there are clear business benefits.

Beyond recruitment, where businesses invest in their young people, from basic skills training right through to advanced apprenticeships, typically they see a very good payback.

And strategically, in competitive and fast changing industries, building individual and organisational capability has never been more important to business success.

These benefits are available to many more businesses if they make jobs more accessible to young people, by ensuring recruitment practices are open and fair, and by keeping an open mind about the value of previous experience versus future potential.

Even where recruitment is out of the question, there still a lot that a business can do to help young people into employment. Work experience is a vital part of that journey. It something that pretty much everyone agrees is a good thing, and yet the quality of work experience is just too inconsistent for something that so important.

Work experience means working, not making cups of tea. A little more planning can make a big difference.

Even where a carefully tailored programme of work experience is too much to ask, there a role for businesses and the people who work in them to help to bridge the gap between education and the world of work. Pretty much everyone can make a difference simply by giving up some time to go into schools to mentor or to share their experiences.

The challenge of youth unemployment is serious and urgent. Sadly it cannot be fixed easily or quickly, but fortunately almost every business can play a positive role in tackling it. That will be good for business and good for Nike Benassi Swoosh 819696-010 Unisex Black White Sale Ireland young people. In my experience, where businesses give their employees an opportunity to help young people into work, they love it. After all, everyone was young once.