Youth unemployment – more attention is needed!

The latest unemployment figures are not good reading. The published figure states that unemployment has gone down in the last quarter but anyone with half a brain cell can read into the figures and see that a large number of people (from every employment level) are working part time or else are working for themselves.

As a headhunter I have of course come across this story far too often. The number of highly skilled engineers with excellent pedigree that have been made redundant due to amalgamation or corporate bureaucracy is quite alarming. Yes many of these individuals have been well paid middle to senior managers and first tier executives with salary packages that will seriously affect the balance sheet once removed but the problem seems to dive much deeper into the workplace.

I’ve previously raised the problem of insufficient academic focus on STEM subjects and engineering at undergraduate level. This therefore shows a far more significant problem for the sector.

My view at a national (governmental) level would be to put a great deal of focus (resource!) into engineering and technology education programmes for the longer term skill necessities of the economy. Such investment will be a key driver for economic growth and sustainability. The private sector will create the growth the economy needs but again it needs to be supported at government level.

So how do the two (academic and private sector sme’s) come together to aid economic growth?

Businesses are currently wary of employing 16-24 year olds. 71% of them say they have a role in tackling youth unemployment but a quarter haven’t employed anyone from this age group in the last 12 months and worse only 56% plan to do so in the next 12 months. Very few businesses engage with students during their time at school or college to build the students employability skills or provide apprenticeships, work experience or internships.

The reason is fairly clear for the smaller SME’s – cost and time! In my opinion, apprenticeships are improving but are still way behind the times. Things are different to 20 years ago. People move jobs and therefore employers are loathe to spend time and money training young people only for them to leave or be ‘stolen’ by the competition. A difficult one to fix but work engagement programmes which fiscally assist employers who put time into the next generation could be a start.

As you already know from previous posts (and for anyone who knows my business background), I care tremendously about education being delivered in a vocational and skills orientated manner. As a product of the private education system I also recognise the massive value of classical education and the breadth and depth that such an education provides an individual, but there comes a point where actual work based learning (career specialist skills) are vital. I enjoy a good philosophical / high brow conversation with friends about the nuances and beauties of history, art and culture but such enjoyable moments come in my spare time and certainly don’t pay the bills.

The end of GCSE’s is wonderful news (if they don’t change their minds again!). There are far better systems and styles of education to give better and more detailed approaches to educating our children. Sadly I was schooled during year two of the GCSE’s and I’m pretty sure my peers will largely agree that they were not an improvement on the previous system. But my fears are that the system will change for another watered down version of what youngsters really need to be ready for the challenges of the next phase of our global economy. My childhood was dominated by the first personal computers (ZX81, Spectrum etc – my microwave is cleverer than they were!), scientific calculators, the first mobile phones (even my peers were frightened of the first ones in the early nineties – and my first one was the size of a house brick!). This all happened a mere 20/25 years ago. I still have nearly 30 years of working life  to complete. What is going to happen in that time, let alone for the working lives of our current youngsters – sobering thoughts when we gaze into our crystal balls and imagine what the world will be like and therefore how we need to educate our children in preparation.

This has been more of a social commentary today – I hope it’s given a little more food for thought though. Bureaucrats will merely put in more bureaucracy rather than really guide the economy. I believe it is up to the thinking parent and the business leaders to take time out and really consider the strategic future.

The future is indeed bright …. but the future is not orange!!!

Paint it your own colour – you’re the artist of your life!