It’s not fair. Let’s just accept that, and determine to make it fairer.

Young people looking for work are regularly faced with the problem of needing experience in order to get a job, but they can’t get a job without experience – the “chicken and egg” situation which we all recognise.

Employers regularly talk of graduates and school-leavers who are looking for work but don’t have any real-world experience.  Again, this is something we recognise.  It’s not unnatural for employers to expect some experience, after all, there are inevitably some young people who have managed to acquire experience “somehow”, albeit probably unrelated to their chosen field.

It’s absolutely not fair, and it can’t be right.  The problem is that we’re so used to the idea that “life isn’t fair”, that we justify this situation to ourselves and take no action to improve it.  The result is that we continue the stand-off, and nobody wins.

Here’s a radical thought…  Let’s accept that it’s not fair.  But at the same time, why not do something to make it fairer?

  • Employers who seek experience in young recruits should also be prepared to offer places where experience can be acquired
  • Employers should offer places on a “no experience needed” basis

This is a little like the idea of “for every tree we chop down, we plant at least one to replace it”Because we value experience, we help create it.

Employers should take a share of the responsibility for creating the experience.

  • It needn’t be costly
  • It needn’t be time-consuming
  • It needn’t be a major commitment

It will never be completely fair, but employers can (and should) make it fairer.

We can’t wait that long

The more I think about it, the clearer it becomes – this is too urgent for Government.  They don’t even have a great record in this respect, having closed the Graduate Internship Scheme last year.

Placements work!

  • they benefit employers and employees
  • they’re easy to create

We need many more, across all industries.  There are some great examples of placements, including Logica, PWC and HSBC, but we need more.  The new “AGE” scheme (Apprenticeship Grant for Employers) to help small employers (£1500 per apprentice), is capped at 40,000 apprentices.  And it only applies to organisations who are taking on their first apprentice – but it’s better than nothing.

I think the only way we’ll create more placements is by convincing employers that it makes sense:

  • it’s got to make financial sense
  • they’ve got to believe it has other value too (longer-term, altruistic, social responsibility, brand etc)
  • it’s got to be easy to do (really easy)

And even with all of that in place, they’ve got to get some positive feeling out of actually doing it.  They’ve got to actually want to do it again, otherwise it will be consigned to history as just another initiative which they tried but “was never going to work”.

So let’s not wait for the Government to take the action.  Let’s look at different ways of cracking it.

Unlocking Britain’s potential

A fascinating report has been published at www.unlockingbritainspotential.co.uk

Two quotes jump right off the page – “We are failing our youth and creating a lost workforce“, and “Education is failing employers and employees“.

And a few key statistics:

67% of employers think there needs to be a collaborative effort between government, employers, parents, individuals and the education system to ensure that those entering the workforce have the skills required by potential employers.

50% of respondents (46% of employees; 53% of employers) say that university does not equip graduates with the right skills for the workplace.

Employers rate future potential on attitude (91%); work experience (55%); education/ qualification (35%).

This report was an initiative from the Adecco Group, partnered with Deloitte and Cisco.  It is a brilliant read, with a number of key recommendations.  The only real worry is that it’s going to take time, money, lots of effort, joined-up thinking, and some serious collaboration to resolve.  That usually only happens when there is clear leadership.  In the report, there is a call to government to take action – will the resultant action be positive, or will there be an “official response”, acknowledging that something needs to be done but disagreeing with much of it?  Some of the actions proposed:

There needs ot be structured collaboration between employers, education, government and other stakeholders to better define what we need from the education sector, and how we measure it.

Employers need to be more engaged in education, and in particular not restricted to major employers.

Teachers need to be given wider support and training, in understanding the needs of employers and workplace norms.

Work experience in schools needs to be formalised.

It’s absolutely brilliant to find such a major study with such clear findings.  The recommended actions are clear.  Let’s see what happens next.