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Experts discuss how employers can help young people start their careers

Experts discuss how employers can help young people start their careers

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Nearly three-quarters of young people – aged between 15 and 24 in 92 countries – are off-track to acquire the skills needed for employment, according to a new report published today by the Education Commission and UNICEF and supported by Generation Unlimited. 

Recovering learning: Are children and youth on track in skills development? features analyses on skills development in early childhood and among children of primary school age and youth. The data highlight low levels of skills among children and young people across all age groups, with young people in low-income countries the least likely to have the skills required to thrive – particularly in future employment opportunities, decent work and entrepreneurship. 

“An inspired, skilled generation of children and young people is critical for prosperity, progression and the success of societies and economies. Yet, the majority of children and young people have been failed by their education systems, leaving them uneducated, uninspired and unskilled – the perfect storm for unproductivity,” said Robert Jenkins, Director of Education, UNICEF. “Investment in cost-effective, proven solutions to fast-track learning and skills development for today’s generation and future generations is urgently needed to address this crisis.” 

With high rates of out-of-school young people and low attainment of secondary-level skills, countries worldwide are facing a skills crisis, with the majority of youth unprepared to take part in today’s workforce, the report notes. 

Deep disparities across countries and among those from the poorest communities are increasing inequalities. In at least one in three low-income countries with available data, more than 85% of young people are off-track in the secondary-level, digital and job-specific skills attainment.  

“To give young people the best chance to succeed and recover learning losses due to the pandemic, we need to support them holistically,” added Liesbet Steer, Executive Director, Education Commission. “But we can’t recover what we don’t measure. We need to know where children and youth are in building the range of skills they need and monitor their progress.” 

Data from 77 countries showed that less than three-quarters of children aged between three and five years old are developmentally on track in at least three out of the four domains of literacy-numeracy, physical, social-emotional, and learning. At approximately 10 years old, the majority of children in low- and middle-income countries are unable to read and understand a simple text. These foundational skills are the building blocks for further learning and skills development, the report notes. 

We spoke to three leading experts about how organisations can present opportunities to young people by training them and getting them into employment… 

Kathy Doherty, HR Director EMEA at Cubic Corporation 

It can be extremely difficult for teenagers and young adults to land their first job, even honing in on what they might like to do once they leave full time education can be a challenge. College and university isn’t for everyone, and alternative routes – such as apprenticeships –enable young people to access the same careers and qualifications with the added bonus of real-life hands-on experience.  

Stepping into the world of work for the first time can be daunting. By welcoming young people into our workplaces, organisations can start them off on their career journey by giving them a taste of working life, helping to develop their confidence along the way. Even a short period of unpaid work experience is a boost to their CV, giving them something to talk about at future interviews. At Cubic, we support young people at all ages and stages, from job shadowing in Year 11 through to graduate roles for university leavers.  

Apprenticeship and graduate schemes in particular offer young people all the tools they need to thrive in the world of work. Working alongside industry professionals, they are able to gain valuable experience and hone the skills needed to hit the ground running in a full-time role. Exploring different technologies, job roles and departments, apprentices can experience first-hand new innovations shaping the industry. Having a workplace mentoring scheme in place can supplement this training, helping to inspire and upskill young workers, while increasing employee satisfaction.  

Investing in young people is a key part of driving innovation. In the transportation industry, bringing in and developing the next generation from the very beginning of their careers helps to create an ecosystem dedicated to improving the way people move around their towns and cities. In particular, investing in diversity ensures that business leaders and their teams can lay the foundations for shaping the future of this progressive industry sector as it prepares to push ahead with new technologies that will sustain the next era of mobility. 

Each successive generation experiences life through a completely different lens – coloured by technology, current affairs, popular culture and more. Bringing young people into a team expands diversity of thought. I’ve seen first-hand how younger colleagues have generated ideas and approaches which have helped us change up the way that we do things for the better. And, as a business, the tailored learning that we give our apprentices means that we have a ready supply of people with exactly the skills and experience we need to meet the needs of our business for the future. Investing in young people should be a strategic priority for all businesses. 

Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal 

In an age of economic uncertainty, stepping onto today’s career ladder can be a daunting prospect for young people – even for those with a degree under their belt. With entry-level jobs increasingly needing years of unattainable experience, organisations need to do more to help those starting their careers.  

Continued action to tackle youth unemployment and support job seekers will be instrumental as organisations face shrinking talent pools and a surge in demand for talent driven by Digital Transformation. When looking for how to attract new talent, it’s important that organisations acknowledge that further education isn’t for everyone. Apprenticeship schemes should not be overlooked as an avenue for identifying and developing new talent, as they equip promising employees with the skills needed to excel within the business. However, finding and securing suitable candidates for apprenticeships will require HR teams to shift their hiring strategy – looking beyond the bullet points on a CV to evaluate potential over experience. 

It is fundamental that employers prioritise finding individuals who are willing to learn and adapt. After all, one of the many benefits of apprenticeship schemes is that organisations can tailor the training that prospective employees receive with a view of keeping them within the business after they complete their scheme.  

Significantly, 86% of employers surveyed by the UK government’s apprenticeship scheme said apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation. This means, by the time they qualify, the apprentices will be well versed in the company’s systems, technology and culture, allowing them to hit the ground running in a permanent role. 

When it comes to gaining new skills, learning on the job has been a best practice for thousands of years. Apprentices mastered crafts while working, increasing their skills to become experts. One key element of the success for apprentices was that they learned and immediately applied new techniques, cementing new knowledge in their minds and thus increasing retention. 

As ‘The Great Resignation’ rages on, organisations need to push ahead with their reskilling efforts to help defend against the ongoing talent crisis. Recent research from SumTotal found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of UK organisations were concerned about their ability to meet their skills demand over the next 24 months. Critically assessing the future demand for skills and understanding the patterns and obstacles that may affect workforce migration to new skill sets will enable HR teams to best utilise and progress their workforce, from apprentices to senior management, ensuring they stay one step ahead as the war for talent intensifies. 

Tony Prevost, HR Director EMEA at Skillsoft 

As the exam season draws to a close and the next generation of young adults finish their summer holidays, many will be experiencing a looming uncertainty over the future. In today’s volatile job market, getting a foot on the career ladder is often easier said than done, with entry-level roles requiring prior skills and experience inaccessible to most school or university leavers. A recent analysis of close to four million jobs posted on LinkedIn since late 2017 showed that 35% of postings for entry-level positions asked for years of relevant work experience.  

Clearly, with the UK’s economic future contingent on closing this skills gap, organisations need to equip young people with the skills they will need to be successful in the modern, digital workplace. One solution is to invest in internal training programmes. Companies that develop a strong learning culture will have the confidence to bring in young adults with less experience, knowing they will be able to upskill them on the job. By incorporating blended learning into the daily workflow, entry-level workers can gain the specific skills needed for their roles and immediately put them into practice. This strategy prepares businesses for the future, as continuous learning will allow employees to adapt as new roles and skills are needed. 

In addition, more employers should look beyond traditional hiring requirements and consider ‘STAR’ candidates — workers who are ‘Skilled Through Alternative Routes’. These can open up opportunities to a much wider pool. With demand for digital-native talent at a premium and the very nature of job roles evolving fast, apprenticeships can help bridge the gap — both for the skills needed within the organisation today and looking ahead to the future. Mutually beneficial, employees can perfect their core craft and branch out to learn new skills — building a strong growth foundation for the wider organisation. 

Finally, industry and businesses must think of new ways to inspire and support young people once they are in their roles. Mentorship, training programs and initiatives will be vital in attracting and developing the tech pioneers of the future. Effective mentorship can have a significant impact on an individual’s growth and have the added benefit of increasing retention. As the war for talent intensifies, never has it been more crucial to develop skilled and adaptable employees who are ready to face the ever-changing nature of work. 

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