Youth unemployment is a subject close to my heart. It has long been a hot topic of conversation, and is regularly making the headlines.
Most recently there has been criticism of the Government’s Youth Contract, with a group of MP’s saying that it’s simply not enough to tackle the vast scale of youth unemployment in this country.
The Youth Contract aims to provide £1bn for a range of schemes to help young people get into work, including providing 160,000 employers with a “wage incentive” to take on an unemployed 18-24 year-olds, as well as pledging 250,000 work experience placements and additional support from Jobcentre Plus.
In total, the initiative is expected to create an additional 430,000 work opportunities over the next three years.
Whilst I believe the Youth Contract is a good start and that the Government’s thinking on the issue is heading in the right direction, it is clear to me that businesses need to realise that the issue simply can’t be solved from the top down and needs to be addressed at a grass-roots level.
And last week, Labour leader Ed Miliband announced his party’s intention find jobs for unemployed young people through a policy whereby anyone aged 18-24 and out of work for a year will be required to do a minimum of 25 hours a week of paid work on a six-month government scheme, or lose their right to benefits. This is also something worth pursuing.
But despite all the political rhetoric, I believe is up to businesses to take a step forward and understand that youth unemployment cannot be tackled by Government and education providers alone. As business leaders, it is our duty to the wider economy to ensure that young people receive the right support from their local business community, to equip them with the skills they need to survive and progress in a commercial world.
On closer analysis, I consider the Youth Contract to be quite narrow in its application as it only targets students who do not achieve any GCSE’s. What about those who receive GCSE’s, but still lack the basic employability and business skills to enter a commercial environment?
RSG Young Student Awards
With these thoughts in mind, my business RSG has taken steps to act on the issue. We have sponsored a competition, which aims to address some of the key issues that are preventing young people from all academic backgrounds from forging meaningful and sustained careers, such as lack of confidence and employability skills.
The RSG Bristol Young Student of the Year Awards (http://www.bristolyoungtalent.co.uk/) is open to all 16 to 19 years olds across Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset and aims get students thinking about their approach to business and life in general through a series of business orientated tasks. It also gives students the chance to work directly with local companies whilst being mentored by industry experts.
We are hoping that with our involvement, we can use our contacts and knowledge of the business community to help bridge the gap between employers and young people.
This work can help develop your CSR initiatives and presents many different networking platforms with some of Bristol’s leading businesses and organisations already involved, including The Society of Merchant Venturers and BPP University College.
However, we still need many more businesses to sign up and help the competition take shape, such as through the mentoring scheme, cash prizes for winners of the competition and sponsorship of the competition’s infrastructure.
In our business, we pride ourselves on finding right talent for the job. I believe that unless we support and believe in the young people in our society today then we will be missing out on great numbers of talented individuals. I know the next generation has a lot more to give and I hope you’ll join with us in helping them achieve this.