By Daniel Hunter

A report from the government’s skills experts, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, today (Monday) calls for a radical shift in the way young people are viewed by employers to create a culture where recruiting and developing young people is part of standard business practice in the UK.

Scaling the Youth Employment Challenge highlights the structural barriers facing many young people, whose lack of experience shuts them out of the jobs market, but who cannot gain experience because they cannot find employment.

The report notes that:

· Word of mouth is now the most common way of getting a job, with 29 per cent of employers using it to recruit compared to 24 per cent two years ago. There has been a corresponding drop in the number of employers formally advertising vacancies

· The major reason employers reject young recruits’ job applications is because they lack experience, yet only one in four (27 per cent) actually offer work experience to young people

· Apprenticeships are a key route into work for young people, but only 15 per cent of employers have or offer them, though double this number (32 per cent) say they plan to offer them in future

The report also finds that even young people with a job are frequently under-employed, with one in five wanting to work more hours. Nearly half of all young people are employed in low-skill low pay jobs like sales, bar staff, waiters, cleaners and sales (compared with 15 per cent of older workers).

“The level of youth unemployment is staggering considering the skills shortages in sectors which are vital to our economy, like engineering and manufacturing. This is proof enough that the links between the education system, the skills system and the employment system are just not strong as they should be," Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and UKCES said.

“Work experience and apprenticeships are ways to bypass these closed doors, providing valuable experience that is otherwise hard to obtain. However, our whole attitude to young people needs to change. Helping young people get a step on the employment ladder should be at the heart of every employer’s business strategy. And tapping into young talent makes good business sense.

“By taking concerted steps towards greater and more ambitious employer ownership of these challenges, we could achieve a great deal and potentially double the engagement of youth policy activity among UK employers.”

Valerie Todd, Director of Talent and Resources at Crossrail and another UKCES Commissioner, added: “Work experience is a vital stepping stone to help young people on the path towards employment. At its best, work experience can open young people’s eyes to careers they’d not previously considered, or didn’t even know existed. We need to reverse the plight of this jinxed generation of young people. A change in attitude to young people in the jobs market is urgently required.”

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