Wednesday 29 July 2020 4:01 am

Harness young talent to get the UK economy back on track

Justine Campbell is managing partner for talent (UK&I) at EY

As businesses continue to feel the economic disruption created by Covid-19, front of mind will be not only confronting the immediate challenges, but their long-term recovery plan and the actions necessary to ensure that they emerge from the crisis in a strong and competitive position. 

The UK’s young talent is a core part of this. Young people represent our future business leaders and can often bring new and innovative ideas, an enthusiasm for learning, and different ways of thinking — all of which will be valuable to businesses in a post-Covid world. 

With this in mind, the government’s recent funding announcements, aimed at encouraging more businesses to establish apprenticeship programmes and getting young people into jobs, is a positive step. It is designed to provide financial support to help companies set up apprenticeship programmes and take on new talent. 

At EY, we know that students are key to the future skills we will need, and have maintained a strong focus on our apprenticeship programmes which we’ve offered for many years now, with some adaptations to the current virtual working environment. This year alone, we expect to recruit 1,037 students, of which 730 will be on our apprenticeship schemes. 

Apprenticeship programmes can enable organisations to increase the range of entry routes into their industry, diversify their talent base, and shape transferable skills in their workforce. By building knowledge in areas that are experiencing increasing demand, such as for tech and digital expertise, businesses can help plug gaps in their capabilities and, in some cases, gain a competitive advantage. 

Whether it is AI, robotics, cyber, software development or other technological advancements, embracing these trends and offering apprenticeships that upskill employees in key areas could prove crucial to futureproofing any workforce. 

There are also key benefits when it comes to retention and advancement. Loyalty is an important element, and apprentices are often more motivated than other workers to stay at a firm for a long time, having received quality training, built relationships with colleagues, and started on the path for a promising career. Many will also have completed their apprenticeship programmes with a recognised accreditation, on-the-job learning, and the confidence to hit the ground running when they move into their next role within a business.

Of course, companies need to have the right infrastructure in place to ensure that these programmes are successful for both the candidates and the business. Finding the right provider to implement training and assessments can help tailor schemes to meet business needs.

Many apprenticeship programmes will likely start in a virtual setting this year, and working closely with your provider can help adjust programmes to better suit an online setting. Replacing face to face onboarding and inductions with virtual sessions will be a challenge and it’s important to find ways of making these processes participative and engaging. We’ve used technology to incorporate activities such as polling questions and quizzes into virtual induction sessions, increased interactions on a one-to-one basis with line managers and buddies, and implemented virtual breakout sessions to encourage networking.    

Young talent will play a critical part in getting the UK economy back on track. Given the challenges this generation faces, it’s up to business and government alike to harness their potential. 

If we get this right, we will develop a sustainable home-grown workforce that will help businesses thrive once again. 

Main image credit: Getty

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