Christine Townley talks about youth unemployment and how we can help

The CIPD reported recently that although companies know they have a role to play in tackling youth unemployment, a quarter have not employed anyone aged 16-24 in the last 12 months.

I am astonished that a whole generation of workers are being ignored and really concerned, not only for young people desperately trying to get work, but also for industries who are not investing in the workforce of tomorrow.

One of the greatest challenges for any industry is how to ensure they plan for the future, not only in terms of investment and growth but also securing the talent and skills they need for the future.

Many industries, construction included, are facing a skills gap where a retiring workforce is taking with it years of invaluable skill and experience and there is a lack of young people coming into the industry to sustain it. For this reason we all need to be doing more to nurture new talent and recruit the sheer numbers of young employees needed to maintain the industry.

The Evening Standard in London is running a Ladder for London campaign aiming to help unemployed young adults into work through paid apprenticeships. I wholeheartedly support this campaign and would like to see something similar in other cities in the UK.  

The construction industry has a rich history of apprenticeships and we know it is a great way of introducing young people to construction related work. There are, of course, many employers who have already proven their dedication to apprenticeships however there is potential to see more of this sort of commitment and to see it extended further into the broad pool of undiscovered talent that is out there. It is also important to concentrate not only on the traditional apprenticeships and the professions but also the newer model of higher level apprenticeships. which enable young people to learn on the job and avoid accumulating large debts at university.

Without more companies getting behind these apprenticeship models, we will never be able to secure the industry’s future workforce. We will also be losing a generation of workers who currently can’t find work.

The Trust helps disadvantaged young people find work in the construction industry and we find that by recruiting amongst these groups of young people, employers are able to draw from a pool of hidden talent; young people who want to be given a chance to lift themselves out of unemployment but whose circumstances haven’t exposed them to the opportunities that are out there.  

It’s time to give these young people a chance and start recruiting amongst this key age group. Through investment in young workers, employers can not only help to provide a secure future to a generation who are all too often being overlooked for job opportunities but also secure the future of the industry by investing in people who can become the workforce of tomorrow.