With 1 in 5 under 25 unemployed in the UK, is youth entrepreneurship the answer?
Youth unemployment: how business can help the ‘lost generation’
With one million young Britons neither in work nor training, some companies are providing stepping stones into the jobs market.
Zain, 19, is half English and half Spanish and swears he’s blessed with intelligence and charm as a result. That winning combination didn’t wash it with the judge. He was sentenced to 15 months in jail for assault.
Almost one million young Britons are currently neither in work nor training. All the evidence would suggest that Zain’s future lay among their number – another of what’s being called the “lost generation”.
Employability – or the lack of it – has emerged as a pressing political issue. Across Europe, youth unemployment is reaching new highs and politicians are looking to the private sector to create jobs. That’s hard enough in challenging economic times but harder still if the recruits aren’t there.
The shift in the UK from a manufacturing economy to one focused on services has hit low-qualified school leavers especially hard, admits Ashok Vaswani, chief executive of Barclays retail and business banking. As he notes: “Thirty years ago, they might have gone into manual jobs, but those kinds of jobs aren’t always there any more in a modern economy.”
Apprenticeships offer a way forward
Help came from an unexpected corner. Zain landed a paid apprenticeship with sandwich chain Pret a Manger as one of 60 ex-offenders and homeless people to have joined the three-month scheme this year.
Back in February, the Barclay’s bank announced it would take on 1,000 school leavers as apprentices. It’s up to around 400 so far. As part of the one-year programme, the participants receive on-the-job training as well as help towards a 2 QCF in providing financial services. Procter & Gamble’s apprentice programme offers professional training in finance and R&D roles, as well as manufacturing.
Apprenticeships aren’t the only answer to the employability gap. Employers need to adopt a multitier approach, argues Niall de Lacy. Hence P&G’s investment in everything from graduate training and undergraduate internships to Teach First and business skills workshops.
De Lacy picks out the company’s work with Young Enterprise in particular. The UK charity runs a structured entrepreneurship programme that sees more than 26,000 teenagers between 15 and 19 years old create their own companies every year.
“They learn the process of setting up a limited company and how to write a business plan, as well as how to take the knocks when they make a bad decision and face the consequences”, says Paul Eastham, spokesperson for the charity.
Research by Kingston Business School of young enterprise alumni appears to back him up. Former participants are almost twice as likely (42%) to go on to own their own companies as non-participants (26%). The qualitative data also shows them to be more enthused about business and more committed to their jobs. “Basically, we’re making sure that the UK is having more entrepreneurs than it would otherwise have”, he concludes.
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