From education to employment

Young people are trying to find happiness in their careers – employers, parents and colleges can help

Chris Jones is chief executive and director general of City & Guilds, the awarding body

All too often, young people are labelled in a negative way. The media tends to portray them as self-obsessed and lazy. As a parent, this certainly hasn’t been my experience, and new research from City & Guilds (The Careers Happiness Index: Millennials Edition) proves that young people are extremely hard-working and driven.

I’m sure many people in the FE sector have had the same experience. Nearly 30% of the 18-24 year olds we surveyed had already started working by age 16, and 20% currently have two or more jobs.

Additionally, they recognise the need to acquire skills, with 42% of young people acknowledging training and apprenticeships are important steps towards their dream jobs.

Even though they are clearly an ambitious generation, youth unemployment in the UK remains high. Young people have the desire to break into the world of work, they just need some help. Employers, parents and colleges all have a role to play.

We need more employers to give young people a chance at a career– and support them with the continued training once they are in the job. Young people can bring enthusiasm, dedication and new ideas that are great for businesses. But still some employers are hesitant to invest in young people. Recently, one of our employer customers addressed this concern brilliantly. He said, “Some say, ‘What happens if we train them and they leave?’ I say, ‘What happens if we don’t train them and they stay?’”

Tesco is a great example of a company that has benefitted immensely from training up young people. The retailer has taken on thousands of apprentices and, as a result, has reported an 80% reduction in staff turnover as well as more than 80% increased satisfaction and team motivation.

Unsurprisingly, parents are very influential for young people as they decide on their future careers. They were identified as being the biggest source of career inspiration in our survey, more so than teachers and peers. Parents need support and resources to help their kids make crucial decisions about their futures.

So what can colleges do to help young people find happiness in their careers? It is all about giving them as many opportunities as possible to experience the world beyond the college doors. Many colleges do a fantastic job of this through partnerships with local employers and replicating working environments in the college.

In fact, an excellent way for both colleges and parents to inspire young people about all the opportunities out there is to attend The UK Skills Show, the UK’s largest skills and careers event. Not only will they get a chance to see skills competitors from across the country, they will get dozens of opportunities to ‘have a go’ at a wide range of skills and talk directly with employers. It will be held at the NEC Birmingham, 14 to 16 November 2013. Careers advice and guidance has been bashed in the press lately following Ofsted’s recent report, and the Skills Show provides a great antidote to this.

We know young people are eager to make their contribution to the world, but despite their willingness, they can’t succeed without our help. Employers, parents and colleges must work together. Optimistically, our research found that almost two-thirds of young people said they are happy at work. Now we must help the final third find happiness in their careers.

Chris Jones is chief executive and director general of City & Guilds, the awarding body

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