Yesterday I attended a cross-panel debate on youth unemployment organised by Channel 4 News in conjunction with Battlefront, Channel 4′s award-winning youth campaigning initiative.
The debate was centred around the ‘Class of 2012‘ with the event asking, “Is this the worst year to leave education and look for employment?”
The first session explored “The Lost Generation”, with a focus on whether we are heading towards a lost generation of unemployed young people and what the implications are for this.
The second session asked, “Whose job is it to create the missing jobs?” with big businesses and government battling it out for the answer.
Many problems were raised throughout the discussion with fewer solutions offered. Here are three quick-fixes that particularly resonated with me:
1) Bridge the gap between education and work experience
Rather than scrapping compulsory work experience, the government should in fact be looking at ways to incorporate work experience and internships throughout the academic route, so that young people emerge from school/college/university with not just theoretical knowledge, but also practical experience that’s valuable in the market place.
2) Financially support youth centres and organisations that signpost opportunities for young people
One of the issues that came up several times was the lack of awareness young people had to the opportunities available to them and how they can access those opportunities. Partly to blame is the government’s decision to axe the duty on local councils to provide a universal careers service and the massive cuts to youth advisory services like Connexions, leaving young people out in the cold.
Youth centres, such as The Salmon Youth Centre in Bermondsey, play a big part in bridging this gap by offering advice, support and signposting opportunities for the most marginalised of young people. These places need government backing and funding to keep on going, not cuts.
3) Subsidise travel for young job-seekers
The cost of travel these days is almost criminal, so it was no surprise that Labour MP Stella Creasy received a hearty round of applause when she called for government to subsidise transport for young job-seekers so they can actually get to interviews and work experience placements. London, in particular, is especially difficult to live in if you don’t have much money so this would go a long way in helping young people to get back on their feet.
On a longer-term basis, some of the other solutions include:
- Open up entry-level positions – more employers should consider opening up entry-level positions with an age limit so that young people don’t have to compete with experienced older workers;
- Create long-term apprenticeships - Sainsburys CEO, Justin King, expressed the view that for apprenticeships to be worthwhile, they need to be over an extended period of time with plenty of skills being learnt in the process;
- Teach entrepreneurship as an option - starting a business has many benefits so even if in the process young people don’t go on to become the next Richard Branson or Lord Sugar, they can still benefit from the additional skills and experience gained from exploring this option;
The Class of 2012 debate was later broadcast on the Channel 4 evening news which you can see here:
And of course no event would be complete without some mingling and networking – here’s me with the very charming Jon Snow, who was surprisingly nowhere near as serious a character as how he comes across on TV!
Your turn: What solution would you offer for the current youth unemployment crisis? Let me know in the comments…