Why we’re still talking about youth unemployment…

Youth Employment Convention 2013 | (image copyright - Mildred Talabi | www.mildredtalabi.com)

Youth Employment Convention 2013: Young people share their difficult experiences of navigating today’s job market

The last time I wrote specifically about youth unemployment was September last year, after I attended Channel 4′s ‘Class of 2012′ debate.

In between then I’ve been to at least three other events specifically relating to youth unemployment (including taking part in Youth Enterprise Live 2012), and today I’ve just returned from the mother of them all – a two-day “Youth Employment Convention” organised by the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (CESI).

To say young people and work is a global talking point at the moment would be a major understatement – understandably so, of course, considering that the number of young people unemployed (just short of a million in the UK), has never been so high and, according to research presented at today’s Convention, long-term unemployment among young people is continuing to rise.

Youth Employment Convention 2013 - Stephen Timms MP (copyright Mildred Talabi | www.mildredtalabi.com)

Stephen Timms MP, Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform, address the audience on Day 2 of the Convention

#YEC2013 – to borrow the Twitter hashtag – brought together politicians, academics, employers, youth organisations, and young people themselves, to discuss the issue and to explore viable solutions for present and future generations of aspiring workers.

The premise of the two days – as set out by Inclusion Chief Executive, Dave Simmons OBE – were to explore three questions:

  1. How do we increase work opportunities for young people?
  2. How do we develop the right skills, qualifications and employability in young people that employers need?
  3. How do we do better for our most disadvantaged young people (i.e. NEETs)?

Through an impressively packed two-day programme of debates, panel discussions and breakout sessions, many themes emerged, including:

  • Scrapping compulsory work experience in schools was a very bad idea;
  • Getting a university degree is no longer the only answer – for many young people their future depends on getting into work as early as possible; 
  • We’re teaching young people skills that are no longer required in the work place – education needs to keep up with the demands of a rapidly changing workforce;
  • There needs to be direct engagement between schools and employers in shaping the curriculum;
  • Teachers are great at being teachers, not giving careers advice – it’s unfair to place this additional burden on them (and it’s not fair or beneficial to the young people either);
  • Apprenticeships and the newly announced traineeships may be the ultimate solution for youth unemployment…
Youth Employment Convention 2013 - employers panel (copyright Mildred Talabi | www.mildredtalabi.com)

New ways of working: A panel, including Google and Microsoft representatives, discuss the role of technology where youth employment is concerned

We also heard directly from young people on the challenges they face with unemployment:

  • “[When applying for jobs] we’re up against experienced employees who’ve been made redundant…”
  • “The worst thing about being unemployed as a young person is getting yourself motivated to get out of bed…”
  • “It’s confusing, disheartening and frustrating to be a young person looking for work…”
  • “It’s hard not knowing where you’re going wrong – whether it’s your CV or your qualifications…”
  • “Getting careers advice at the end of my GCSEs was too late; we need it earlier – and from people who are actually doing the jobs, not teachers…”

Although there is still a lot of work to be done to implement some of the solutions raised during the two days, I left #YEC2013 slightly more hopeful for the future of our young people. With so many people willing to tackle the issue of youth unemployment, it can only be a matter of time before we put an end to the shocking statistics for good.

Click here to download speaker presentations from the day
Click here to view interviews of some of the participants (filmed by FE News)

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Do you think we’re getting closer to solving the youth unemployment crisis? What other solutions would you recommend? Let me know in the comments…