News and Comment

Businesses should be learning from young people, not criticising them

Friday 3 October 2014


Who’d want to be a young person in today’s job market? A recent British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) survey of 3,000 firms has found nine out of 10 businesses think that school leavers are not ready for employment, and more than half feel the same about graduates.

As such, to employ a young person is seen as ‘a risk’. 50% of the businesses surveyed do not believe that young people have the communication skills to be work ready.

That’s right young people – there are fewer new job opportunities due to the global recession, a lower turnover of job opportunities due to an ageing workforce and now the news that good academic grades alone are not guaranteed to open the door.

Ironically, the BCC has called for universal work experience in all secondary schools in response to the findings, despite the fact that half of the businesses surveyed saying that they did not offer work experience placements themselves. This suggests that the education – or the relationship between young people and businesses – needs to go both ways.

In a recent evaluation of vInspired’s 24/24 programme we found that young people who participated on the volunteering initiative gained huge amounts of confidence through workplace placements. They felt that the opportunity to work with adults – and be treated as one – helped to increase their self-esteem and confidence in their communication skills. As this programme targeted NEET +1 young people (those not in education, employment or training plus another signifier of disadvantage, for example young parent, asylum seeker, ex-offender) these findings signified a hugely important step towards their positive outcomes.

However, the same evaluation also examined the impact of these work placements upon employees and found some hugely interesting results. Providers who had little previous experience of working with young people described the impact of having a small cohort of young people working in their office for the first time. Some found it a shock initially to have young people in their space, but then described how it led them to re-evaluate aspects of their operation and culture and to make their environment more inclusive, fresh and forward thinking.

Perhaps those businesses, the ones who see young people as a risk and who do not offer work experience, could learn from this experience and should spend less time criticising young people and more time learning from them.