03/06/2015

By Jon Cano-Lopez, CEO, REaD Group


Pre-election, the Tories were discussing the need to fund apprenticeships with money from the banking fines, whilst Labour mentioned that the number of young apprentices had fallen. Now that the election is over, it’s time for the government to end the rhetoric and help young people enter the jobs market. However, the need for young people to get business experience is not just something that should be left to the politicians; there is plenty of room for businesses to step in and find their own solutions.

The Conservative’s new business secretary Sajid Javid recently announced that the cabinet aims to create two million more jobs in the next five years and three million more apprenticeships. This government is pushing for a better environment for businesses to grow and create these jobs, and so firms must begin to play their part in talent development, helping to get young people into work by giving them the experience they need to kick-start their careers.

Traditional apprenticeship schemes enable young people to ‘earn while they learn’; such as BT’s, which is set to provide 1,000 vocational and work experience placements for young people this year. But businesses needn’t be restricted to these traditional apprenticeship models. There is plenty of room for firms to innovative and to bridge the skills gap by giving students practical business experience in return for fresh thinking from eager and progressive minds.

One option for companies is to take a different approach to the traditional apprenticeship. Companies can help to ease students, who are studying for business-related masters degrees, into a real business environment with a project that replaces their dissertation. By providing students with the opportunity to take on some real responsibility at an early stage in their career, companies can give young people completing their studies the chance to develop skills that will prove invaluable in the early stages of their career.

The growing emphasis on employability skills has made both students and businesses in all sectors take to the idea of mid-degree training, much like the STEM industries. Fields such as engineering and technology regularly open themselves up for students to gain invaluable experience before full time employment. This is largely due to these areas experiencing a skills shortage; so companies including National Rail, ExxonMobil and Jaguar Land Rover offer apprenticeships. These apprenticeships are crucial to these industries as they equip the students with an initial understanding of the skills required, and it gives them exposure to a career that they have so far only been introduced to from the classroom.

The marketing industry is now doing the same, as believe it or not, it is experiencing a skills gap just like the STEM sectors. It may seem like there are a lot of jobs out there, but the problem is that there doesn’t currently seem to be enough of the talent to fill them. Schemes like ours aim to solve this problem.

But the benefit is not limited to just filling a gap in the workforce. Bringing new, fresh minds into a business can result in eye-opening discoveries for any company. Having been taught to critically analyse processes and the modern business environments, young people can alter traditional business thinking. The enthusiasm and motivation that students bring to the workplace enables them to efficiently adapt to new environments and also alter those environments for the benefit of all. Most notably, students don’t come with any pre-conceived ideas about what can and cannot be done. With their ‘can-do’ attitude and creative minds – why not get students involved in business!

To aid the political agenda, drive the UK economy and to develop future employees, businesses need to continue to play their part in developing worthwhile student and graduate training schemes. By giving students a solid understanding of real-world pressures, they can begin applying new, critical ways of thinking to long-standing business processes. All businesses need to do is give students the opportunity to get their heads out of the dusty text-books, and straight into analysing the issues they have been trained to critique.