Work experience ‘lottery’ fuelling youth unemployment figures

According to a new report, Catch 16-24: Youth Employment Challenge, from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, young people face a postcode lottery when trying to find work experience, with employers in some parts of the country almost twice as likely to offer it as their counterparts in other areas.

The report also reveals that nationally, one in five employers say that nothing could persuade them to offer work experience, despite the fact that 66% of businesses say experience is critical when recruiting new staff.

It comes as government figures show that around 40% of the UK’s 1.9 million unemployed people are aged under 25, and that in contrast to other age groups, unemployment for the youngest workers is remaining stubbornly high.

The Humber, which faces one of the highest unemployment rates for 16 to 25-year-olds in England, has just 29% of employers offering work experience to build vital work-based skills. By contrast, Liverpool, Greater Birmingham and Solihull all see a high proportion of employers offering work experience, and significantly lower levels of youth unemployment.

Dame Fiona Kendrick, chief executive of Nestle UK and Ireland, and a Commissioner at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills said: “The areas where employers are least likely to offer any form of experience of the workplace are also where youth unemployment is high, creating a catch 22 situation for young people – they can’t get the experience to get a job and they can’t get a job without the experience.

“Small actions can make a world of difference to young people, and experience need not be two weeks of photocopying in the summer – mock interviews, talks in schools, site visits and mentoring can make the difference for a young person’s CV without taking too much time.”

Michael Davis, chief executive of UKCES said: “Young people are already facing increasingly difficult conditions finding their way into the workplace, and the news that these factors can be further compounded based simply on location is disheartening.

“Contact with the world of work should be a component of all young people’s educational experience, and all schools and colleges should have links with at least one local business. That’s not altruism – it’s essential if we’re to create the skilled workers all business need to survive and thrive.

“By working collaboratively, taking one simple step and engaging with young people, employers, education providers and those taking their first steps into work can all benefit.