By Daniel Hunter

The latest set of unemployment figures from the Office of National Statistics shows a further downward trend. Unemployment was down by 49,000 on the last quarter, at 2.51m people or 7.8 %.

However although there has also been a reduction in youth unemployment, this is still worryingly high at 20.7%. Many commentators believe that that a significant proportion of the new jobs created may not be ‘real’ or long-term jobs, but temporary and insecure ones, for example created to fill the temporary requirements of one-off events such as the Olympics and the Royal Jubilee.

There are two further trends which may be masking a continuing lack of good employment opportunities, the rise in part-time positions taken up by those actually seeking full-time work, and a rise in the number of self-employed.

Liz Field, CEO of the independent trade body the Financial Skills Partnership (FSP), comments: “Many are worried that not enough jobs are being created that offer real potential for career progression and personal growth. However, truly progressive and successful organisations in the financial services sector, and in the UK generally, have continued to invest in creating high quality skills-based opportunities for the long term.

“Companies in our sector have been opening their doors to young people at school or in college, giving them a potentially life-changing insight into the choice of careers available in the sector through work experience, taking on school leavers as apprentices and helping them to gain valuable and transferrable industry-standard qualifications, and giving new graduates a helping hand into long-term careers through FSP’s new Graduate Foundation College.”

FSP facilitates applications for high quality work experience in the sector each year through its online careers portal Directions, which also lists all other kinds of work and training opportunities available to young people in the sector. It has also helped develop six apprenticeship frameworks currently used in the sector, with over 7,000 apprenticeships starting in 2011/2012. It is also developing ‘higher level’ apprenticeships in both banking and insurance, together with the first professional services higher apprenticeship. Most recently, FSP has set up the brand new Graduate Foundation College which offers graduates concentrated pre-employment training and a period of paid industry experience, helping them to be taken on as trainee financial advisers.

Liz concludes: “In what is a people-based sector, companies have been quietly forging ahead and creating real and sustainable jobs which are based on skills. They have been doing this because they realise that the route to individual success lies in the same direction as businesses’ own trajectory to growth: through the building of relevant skills which will equip the financial services businesses of the future to keep on excelling in a fast-changing and increasingly competitive global marketplace.”

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