Sunday 12 January 2014 11:14 pm

Firms say skills gap keeping EU youth workless

DESPITE crushing levels of youth unemployment, many European businesses say they struggle to find appropriately skilled young workers for vacant places, raising questions about educational systems in the EU.

A report released today by management firm McKinsey shows that some of the countries with the most significant youth unemployment crises also have major skill shortages in their young workforces.

Of the eight major EU economies assessed for the research, the British system comes off relatively well. Only 18 per cent of employers in the UK say a shortage of entry-level employee skills is harming business.

But the level is highest in Italy and Greece, countries with some of the most severe youth unemployment problems in the continent. During October, 57.9 per cent of Greek under-25s were unemployed, along with 41.4 per cent of the young workforce in Italy.

But even with this elevated level of joblessness, 47 and 45 per cent of employers are concerned about a lack of entry-level skills for first jobs in Italy and Greece respectively. 

The survey also shows that 74 per cent of vocational and academic education providers in Europe think their graduates are prepared for the labour market, but only 35 per cent of firms and 38 per cent of young people agree.

The authors also credit the UK higher education system, which hosts almost half the European universities in the world’s top 100. However, the report suggests that a stigma toward vocational education could be holding back the British economy.

Of the eight countries assessed, the UK is the only one in which recent graduates from vocational courses are more likely to be in jobs than those who have just finished comparable academic studies.