On Thursday, the tense wait will finally come to an end for thousands of students who will find out their GCSE results. Last week thousands more received their A-Level grades, and both sets of results could determine these young people’s futures.
Whether it’s deciding to continue into higher education or take on additional training – eventually all of them will be looking for paid work. Yet fewer young people now combine work and study, and many leave education without ever having had a paid job. And this despite employers from all sectors valuing soft skills that are often gained through experience of work.
London has a lot to offer its young people but it also has the third highest rate of 16 to 24 year olds out of work in England, with nearly one in five young Londoners unemployed. We must urgently provide young people with the skills that employers are looking for if we are to bridge the gap between skills and business needs in London.
The City of London Corporation recently launched a report on youth unemployment – a subject which remains a real challenge. “The City’s Business” is a guide which highlights the key steps that City firms can follow to reduce youth unemployment in the capital.
The report encourages businesses to target support where it is needed and to focus on specific groups of young people, like those with low qualifications, disabilities, young parents, or those with little or no work experience.
Businesses should also “walk the talk” by acting as good role models, making sure that their own support for unemployed young people is the best that it can be. Ultimately, the most valuable opportunities for young people are often found within an organisation’s employment practices and operations.
While many schools and businesses are indeed addressing these challenges, more work must be done to raise awareness of skilled jobs and how young people can secure them.
Pupils also need more frequent early exposure to the workplace so they understand the practical and “real life” application of their studies. For business engagement to be meaningful, it needs to start early, so young people are aware of future opportunities and the skills they will need to succeed.
This means not just focusing on academic achievement, but working with schools and colleges through mentoring, careers fairs or workplace taster sessions, to help young people develop the employability skills that will give them a head start.
Never has there been a more important time for businesses to work closely with the education and training sectors to demonstrate how pupils can attain the skills needed now and for the future.
Youth unemployment causes exclusion and disadvantage, and has a cost to the economy and society. But more can be done to prevent young people from falling through the net. It is time to tackle youth unemployment in London with renewed dedication.
For more information on the report visit cityoflondon.gov.uk/thecitysbusiness