By Max Clarke

Businesses are failing to invest in the nation’s youth, even as numbers of jobless 16-24 year olds stands at near record levels.

Nearly half of businesses questioned said that they would not be looking to take on someone of graduate or school leaver age this year, and worryingly nearly 10% said they would be reducing employees aged between 18 and 24.

Medium sized companies (50-99 employees) are more likely to increase the number of 18-24 year-olds in their business, with more than one in four saying they would do so in the next 12 months, compared to less than one in 10 micro businesses employing between 1 and 9 employees.

“The results of the survey reveals the plight of our young people, at a time when another pool of school leavers are preparing to exit full time education over the next month and enter the job market,” said EST’s Elaine Barrett.

“It’s disheartening to think that many employers don’t have faith in 18-24 year olds, consigning them to the employment scrap heap even before they have had the chance to get their foot on the career ladder.”

“This survey should act as a wake-up call for employers. We need to invest in and support our young people.”

Youngsters who are lucky enough to secure employment, can expect training to be on-job and low budget. A third of all companies cite the cost of training 18-24 year olds as a major concern, so much so that nearly two-thirds use informal on the job training to ensure young people are fit for purpose and 5% of companies offer no training at all. A third spend a lowly £100-£500 in their first year training 18-24 year old employees.

Top of the list of reasons not to employ an 18-24 year old candidate is lack of experience, with more than half citing this a barrier. But surprisingly it is what could be deemed as the ‘old fashioned’ values of work that seem to be missing with today’s youth, with half of all employers saying that poor timekeeping or attendance was a concern, alongside poor verbal and spoken communication skills, a lack of drive and commitment, poor written skills and inappropriate dress and appearance.

Barrett continues: “Qualifications alone are no longer enough for young people to secure and maintain employment - it is crucial that they also have the right behaviours and skills to meet the organisation’s goals.

“However, despite businesses putting as much emphasis on ‘soft skills’ as the technical competences to do the job, employers as well as the wider education system have not yet woken up to the fact that they need to invest the time and resources into helping these young employees develop the way in which they communicate, interact with others and present themselves. Unless this attitude changes, young people will be increasingly alienated within the job market.”

There were some interesting findings across the UK too. Nearly two-thirds of Yorkshire companies said that they would not be recruiting 18-24 year olds, followed closely by the South West (59%), the South East (57%) and the North East (55%). And for young job hunters in the East Midlands and the North West the situation is even more depressing, with businesses in these regions actively looking to reduce these young employees by 14% and 11% respectively.

The only employment hot spots for the nation’s youngsters appear to be the West Midlands, where a fifth of companies will be actively looking for talented young people, with Scotland and London not far behind, with 19% and 15% of businesses.

Young employees in the South East were definitely amongst the best off when it comes to training, with a third of generous bosses spending over £1,000 in their first year with the company. This is in sharp contrast to the West Midlands and the East Midlands, where 6% and 5% of employers invest as little as £100 in training in their first 12-months on the job.

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