From education to employment

Give young people skills for life

Good careers advice has never been so important, particularly at this time as the UK experiences a rise in the number of youngsters classified as NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). Many concerns have been raised by parents and businesses about the quality of careers advice available to young people. According to the recent Careers England research, there has been a dramatic reduction in the amount of professional careers guidance on offer at secondary schools. Many youngsters are at a loss as to where to go to find out about the various opportunities available to them in the world of work and some have an unrealistic view about the jobs that are available in the current economy.

It is crucial that businesses do more to show young people the requirements and opportunities of the world of work and inform them about the jobs that are available in the current jobs market so as to prevent a mismatch of skills to jobs. Let us not forget that despite high levels of youth unemployment, employers are struggling to find suitably skilled staff and often complain of a skills mismatch, a lack of employability skills and about youngsters making decisions about qualifications and subjects with little awareness of the jobs market ahead of them. The situation is in danger of continuing if a lack of information available to youngsters remains a problem.

The financial services industry is one that has growth in its DNA. The resilience possessed by the industry has enabled it to weather the storms of increased scrutiny and continue to look at ways to create opportunities for expansion and routes into the sector for new entrants. Companies in the sector are seeing that the key way in which to achieve growth is through their people. However, according to a report released in March 2013, fewer than one in 30 young people are considering jobs in banking and finance, even though one in five jobs are expected to be in this sector.

The report entitled ‘Nothing in Common: the career aspirations of young Britons’ mapped against projected labour market demand (2010 – 2020), involving a collaboration between the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), b-live and the Education and Employers Taskforce, revealed that there is a lack of informed choices among young people.  This echoes the research which FSP undertook with the Career Academies UK last year.

If our long-established UK companies are to remain credible and competitive in the future, the way in which employers attract and develop new blood is one of the main issues on which they need to focus. With this is mind, the Financial Skills Partnership has launched 21st Century Guild (21CG).

21CG is a new generation of Guild that is business-led, providing industry with a way to support this issue and widen accessibility to resources. It aims to educate new entrants and young people about the choices they have, providing skills and access to opportunities in the financial services sector.

The Guild will be powered by Directions, Financial Skills Partnership’s (FSP) successful online careers hub, which is already used by a number of individuals and careers advisers across the UK. The current FSP outreach activity of 150 careers events a year for young people will be further enhanced through the Guild enabling us to reach many more individuals both face-to-face and virtually.

Essentially, 21CG is a framework which enables employers to engage, recruit and train their future workforce. It consists of both online and offline resources to help establish the next generation of sector workers. It is also a means for the industry to provide employability skills, work experience and opportunities for those seeking to enhance their skills. We will build on successful industry collaboration to date to provide scalability and reach. It will provide the infrastructure to inform prospective recruits about the financial and legal services industry by providing them with careers information, skills development and work experience to potentially get them into employment and programmes such as apprenticeships, internships and graduate placements.

The FSP is already engaging with sponsors and benefactors both keen to engage with and attract people through to providing individuals with skills that not only raise their prospects but also enhance social mobility and diversity of the sector.

As an individual member, participation in the Guild is an opportunity to learn new skills, to grow, to change course, to be included and to be a part of the change needed in the industry. Furthermore, for young people considering financial or legal services as a viable career option, the Guild will offer a wealth of resources to help them realise their aspirations.

The FSP is calling on companies in the financial and legal services and key industry stakeholders to be part of this concerted industry collaboration.

We need to do more to inform young people about the options available to them should they decide, for whatever reason, that university is not for them. There is a variety of jobs in our industry that do not require a degree. We need to raise aspirations regardless of background otherwise we risk losing out on talent. There is a need to end the ingrained perception that vocational skills and technical education are not worthy of consideration for good jobs. At the same time, industry and training providers need to make more of an effort to improve the quality of vocational training and information available to young people so that they can be more employable. The finance, legal and financial services sectors are making great strides but this approach must be replicated across all sectors if we are to be successful and profitable as a nation.

If we don’t give our youngsters enough information to allow them to make informed decisions about their futures, we are doing them a huge disservice, and both young people and employers will lose out in the long-term.

Liz Field is chief executive of the Financial Skills Partnership, an employer-led organisation that represents large firm partners on the current skills issues affecting the industry

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