Employer engagement essential to ending youth unemployment

Lord Holmes

One of the policy areas I am particularly interested in is youth unemployment. Today, as part of the Westminster Education Forum, I chaired a panel discussion on course development in higher education. One of the key questions was about engaging employers in the design and delivery of courses. Getting employers involved at this stage will ensure graduates leave with the necessary skills required for employment.

Currently, although youth unemployment figures are down to an almost all time low of 14.9%, the not so great news is that young people are disproportionately unemployed, trapped in the bottom half of the skills hourglass and less likely than previous generations to acquire new skills once they’ve got into work. Young people need careers, not just ‘any job’ but sustainable employment.

What can be done? There is significant consensus among organisations and charities on some key elements and particularly on the importance of employer engagement. We need a joined up, local approach. Education must be joined to the workplace. Local employers should work with schools to give experience and information about the local labour market. We also need greater ‘employer ownership of skills’. This means employers and industries need to agree and communicate which skills and qualifications they value and need. In a digital age this is particularly important for ‘future proofing’ not just our young people but the economy as well.

Clearly, thinking about different ways of engaging employers is important and in the Lords I asked if the government would insert a condition into all public procurement requiring bidding businesses to offer high-quality apprenticeships. This would serve to ensure more companies offer the kind of decent in work training opportunities our young people need. Greater collaboration between business and government should also aim to create more middle-ranged jobs, so there can be genuine progression up a career ladder and less of a trap in the low skilled ‘any job’ bulge at the bottom.

Another area that needs to be ‘joined up’ is overall responsibility for the problem across departments. The Department for Education, Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills all have accountability for some of the services which can transform a young person’s transition from school to work, but they all work to different objectives, and the young people most likely to end up in the unemployment statistics fall through the cracks. The success of London 2012 shows what we can achieve when we cut across Whitehall departments and invest responsibility in one person to allow them to achieve a clearly defined goal. The growing consensus, that we can completely eradicate youth unemployment, points toward the opportunity to create an even greater legacy – if it can be grasped.

6 comments for “Employer engagement essential to ending youth unemployment

  1. MilesJSD
    27/11/2014 at 2:18 pm

    An open question needs to be fronted heretofore:-

    Which is the more Important & Urgent
    a) The 75%-timeframed Lifeplace [in Britain ~63 million moving-bodies]
    b) The 25%-timeframed Workplace
    [in Britain, n-number – 40 million ? including ‘learners’ in schools and universities –
    of mostly sedentary bodies ?) ?
    Remember that without healthy, citizenlike, and environmentally-supportive ‘raw-material’, ‘ready-skilled’, ‘prospective-workers’, from the Lifeplace,
    the Workplace
    [owned and incidentally dictated by The Employer]
    is doomed,
    if only ‘ultimately’
    to failure;

    and thereupon, so is The Lifeplace ?

  2. 28/11/2014 at 3:05 pm

    I think this points are very much valid within England today. Currently, employment is a daunting prospect for many young people in UK.
    I think a lot of it is down to the fact that many people need PDP’s within employment roles in order to feel a sense of security and engagement.

    I came across a great article that discusses my point further. I will post the link below for anyone who may be interested.


  3. tizres
    29/11/2014 at 12:04 am

    Lord Holmes, postgraduate unemployment is not new, at times called the brain drain. Nor is the idea of joined-up policy-making or even re-badging government departments, all previously designed to appear relevant in the employment market place du jour. So what, as you ask, is to be done?

    One of your main arguments, that “local employers should work with schools to give experience and information about the local labour market”, is necessarily a hit and miss affair because governmental policies come and go: my micro business has to get on with it and the same is true for school teachers. I can filter this down one more level.

    For me, the last straw in offering work experience and other social placements came about when a student told me that her school teacher warned his students against attending spending a fortnight at my workplace because I asked for homework; I have no idea how they thought this would benefit me. This was against a backdrop of bureaucratic regulations, with visits and police checks demanded by each authority/carer before I was considered ‘safe’, where just one would have ticked the boxes for everyone.

    The majority of employers own micro businesses, local micro businesses, hammered by employment regulations designed by employers with large numbers of employees most often found in the public or third sector, sometimes run by non-doms. Meanwhile, I’m really fed up being casually compared with gang masters, traffickers, tax evaders, zero-hours employers or whatever is currently floating Labour’s boat . While your vision of employer-led apprenticeships is completely valid you might want to also consider the unique level of nurture that micro business employers can, and do, offer: postgrads need mums, too.

    I have no idea what the next government has in store for me; no-one appears to have the foggiest of who will be running which bits of the UK, if the UK will be in the EU, and other chaotic situations created by a few unhinged individuals. Right now, my wish is to contribute toward net migration stats and retire to a country with a language I can’t speak or read, in order to get some inner peace.

    PS I note that you count pensions as one of your main interests. Auto-enrolment: I dare you.

  4. MilesJSD
    01/12/2014 at 12:57 pm

    Inferrably, employed-youth has no time to be progressing as individual “Living-Earth-Citizens”, in the Lifeplace.

    Also arguably, the unemployed, and not just Youth, having so much spare-time, should surely be both informatively-encouraged and minimally-subsidised, to pursue the best and most affordable Lifeplace-Self-Improvement/Individual-Human-Development Guidances

    for which, employed or not, simply print-out some comprehensive Sources from
    a wholly voluntary website Not-For-Profit, Already-Paid-For-Out-Of-Your-Taxes.

  5. maude elwes
    04/12/2014 at 3:11 pm

    This link tells of the life for millions of working people in the UK today, 2014. And it’s a shameful disgrace it has been allowed to continue. And worse, to have colluded in such a fraud by those who feigned compassion. These measures could never have passed into legislation had those who claimed a different ethos stuck to their mantra.


    How this has been accepted by the party that calls itself socialist is an enigma. They either do not have their feet on the ground, or, they choose not to highlight reality.

    The first lie we need to expose is, that Labour cause the financial mess we have today. New Labour may or may not have run the country to the benefit of ordinary people, that is another matter. But, they did not cause the financial sector to perform fraudulently and create the Global financial crises it has. The banking sector did that with the full knowledge of all Western governments. And it began in the USA, spreading like wild fire, as a result of the so called Globalisation of markets. So, rampant Capitalism got us to where we are today. Along with the theft of tax payers money to bail them out of their fraud. Not so called benefit scroungers of any kind.

    The second myth being, a Coalition of political parties would, through massive welfare cuts to the poor, disabled and youth, by robbery of same tax payers, would bring about an end to the crisis through austerity. It hasn’t and it won’t. And it won’t help create employment on any level as it cannot. Without people having a living wage, with an excess to spend, the economy will continue to dwindle. People must spend massively to stimulate the need for goods and the ability to buy those goods, which must be produced by the citizens of the nation who are living desperate poverty. Not in countries that pay peanuts. This includes all working citizens, not simply the young. And the reality politicians refuse to face is, Globalization is the cause of this massive ‘Western’ depression.

    And finally, the pretence that taking those who are not paid a living wage out of tax will enhance their ability to survive is treachery. It is the forerunner to, ‘you have paid no tax, therefore you have no right to benefit’ paid for by other tax payers. When in fact, the poorest will have paid the highest taxes of all, at 65%, yet will be denied the insurance they pay taxes to the State to cover.


    This poverty is a deliberate move by the elite to raise their income levels beyond reason. And unless there is a move to install a socialist government, that believes in the right of those who pay into their coffers being protected in destitution, with their own money, then we will indeed be back in the days of The Mill.

    Misuse of revenue is, or should be, a crime against the people and humanity. And the promotion of vicious propaganda of the kind put out by the media and press, referring to the population, who incidentally pay their wages, as lazy work dodgers, should be a crime on the same level as the holocaust deniers. Incarceration of these slanderers being the result of such speech. For, that is hate speech.

    The citizens of any country pay taxes, even when in poverty, to keep them from destitution, not to bail out fraudsters, or, collaborate to make war with foreign allies. this horrendous move by governments across Europe is in order for the wealthy to grow beyond reasonable measure, in all forms.

  6. Frank Woodcock
    12/12/2014 at 5:06 am

    Aging population plus overstretched community care for elderly is a problem.
    Young people have a natural affinity with the elderly.

    Train and assign an unemployed young person to a care in the community worker. Their role is to specifically engage with elderly person, listening and helping care worker with basic routine tasks. Their pay rate could be say 2/3 minimum wage. They could, if desired, earn accreditation to be care workers.

    This would help eliminate youth unemployment and give lonely elderly people much needed social engagement.

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