I attended a seminar on 26th November run by the Westminster Employment Forum on youth unemployment and the future of traineeships, work experience and enterprise education. As well as playing an active role in the seminar I wrote an article for a publication prepared after the seminar for all the delegates. The article can be found below:
Time for practical steps to tackle youth unemployment
We in the UK are swamped with ideas on how to tackle youth unemployment. There has been an endless stream of reports, research papers, studies and commissions on the subject over the last few years. Many of these have made sensible, reasonable, practical, evidence-based proposals that politicians and decision-makers could implement without too much difficulty. Arguably, one of the reasons we still have high youth unemployment is that many of these ideas have not been implemented.
Let us take one example – enterprise education in schools, a subject which was discussed in the Westminster Employment Forum seminar. While the Government recently amended the National Curriculum to include a requirement for schools to cover financial education – in Citizenship and Maths lessons – from 2014, the Government has not introduced a similar requirement for enterprise education.
This is unfortunate, as the evidence suggests that enterprise education provides significant benefits to young people. Not only does it make young people more likely to start up a business (and more likely to run a successful business), but it also improves their ‘soft’ skills and their knowledge of businesses and employers, as well as improving their academic achievements generally. The evidence also shows that many young people would like to receive enterprise education at school and that many employers would like it to be taught at school.
As recently as June of this year I gave evidence in Parliament, to a hearing organised by the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee, where I made all these arguments. Yet even since then the case for this idea has continued to grow. For example, research published in October by business education charity Young Enterprise found that an overwhelming 92% of the UK employers they surveyed wanted enterprise education to be part of the National Curriculum.
It is however not enough on its own to consider what the Government should do or to wait for it to act. Indeed, I know that many of the delegates at the event were representing schools, businesses or local councils – all of whom have the capacity to act on their own.
If you were a delegate at the seminar, there are numerous things you could do to make a practical difference. Consider working with your local schools to ensure they provide a curriculum (and extra-curricular activities) which prepares their students for employment and the workplace. Consider introducing a graduate recruitment scheme and/or an apprenticeship scheme to bring young people into your organisation, if you do not have such schemes in place already.
Or you could consider signing up to the “Youth Friendly Badge”. This is a scheme run by Youth Employment UK (www.yeuk.org.uk), a not-for-profit campaign organisation I am involved with. This Badge is a ‘kitemark’ for employers who employ young people or who at least provide work experience or give talks in schools – in other words, it recognises employers who contribute in a big or small way to efforts to tackle youth unemployment.
It is free to sign up for and will not only boost your ‘youth friendly’ credentials but will also help tackle youth unemployment. This is because one of the conditions of receiving the Badge is that you have to promote it to your suppliers and contractors. This is an ideal way to reach the small and medium sized businesses and enterprises which could make a huge difference in getting young people into work. A number of top companies have already signed up.
As a young person I know that young people want action on this issue sooner rather than later – so let’s not keep them waiting any longer!