From education to employment

Pick potential over experience this World Youth Skills Day

Celebrated annually on 15 July, World Youth Skills Day was designed to raise awareness of the importance of equipping young people with the right skills for employment. 

Unemployment for 16-24 year olds in the UK has increased by 13% since the start of the pandemic, with currently around 3 in 4 young people lacking skills needed for employment. As we look to the future world of work, sadly there is a mismatch between young people’s experience and the hiring processes that are currently in place.

“As the exam season draws to a close and the next generation of young adults embark on their summer holidays, many will be experiencing a looming uncertainty over the future,” notes Tony Prevost, HR Director EMEA at Skillsoft. “In today’s volatile job market, getting a foot on the career ladder is often easier said than done, with even entry-level roles requiring prior skills and experience inaccessible to most school or university leavers.”

Indeed, a recent analysis of close to 4 million jobs posted on LinkedIn since late 2017 showed that 35% of postings for “entry-level” positions asked for years of relevant work experience; with new research today from Arctic Shores revealing that 87 percent of 16-24 year olds believe employers focus too much on past experience and not enough on potential when hiring. 

Revamping recruitment

As roles and skills evolve with digitisation, recruitment needs to follow suit. Introducing more avenues into the workplace via work experience, apprenticeship and internship opportunities, ensures organisations can help to bridge this gap and future-proof the workforce.

“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,” said Kathy Doherty, HR Director EMEA at Cubic Corporation. “By welcoming young people into our workplaces, we 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.”

A taste of working life

College or university isn’t for everyone and with entry level roles increasingly difficult to achieve,  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. 

Two of Cubic Transportation Systems’ current apprentices explain how they’ve benefitted from the program:

“The apprenticeship scheme allows me to unleash my skills and use them in day-to-day life as a field service engineer,” Kuljit Singh, Field Services Apprentice, explains. “I have also been lucky enough to be mentored by top engineers in the field. 

“My manager set up individual and group projects that allow us to dig deeper into the company and explore different technologies. Working with apprentices in different departments also enables us to understand different points of view – it’s a great way to use and develop different skill sets. 

“I wanted to begin working within an engineering environment where I was able to receive hands-on experience with various people who already have many years of experience put together,” reflects Quality Engineer Apprentice, Daniel Ralph. “I feel there is a lot to learn through working with Cubic employees who already have a substantial amount of knowledge they can pass down.

“This kind of environment is a perfect place for not just me but other apprentices and interns to begin their career. It provides good opportunities for introducing new employees to the engineering environment. Apprentices can also use these opportunities and skills learned to innovate new projects and ideas for the company.”

Driving innovation

As the ‘Great Resignation’ rages on, organisations need to push ahead with their reskilling efforts to help defend against the ongoing talent crisis. Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal, suggests: “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.”

This World Youth Skills Day and beyond, investing in young people is the key to driving innovation, Doherty agrees. “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.”

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