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Young peoples’ views on the challenges of getting into work in 21st-century Britain

This month, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and EY Foundation published the report An Age of Uncertainty; a detailed account of young peoples’ views on the experiences they’ve had when making decisions about their careers, how they have found the workplace so far and their ambitions for the future.

The insights are based on a Populus survey of 1,510 young people (16 – 21 year olds) from across the UK, and have been used to make suggestions to strengthen the relationship between the education system and the workplace. It is hoped that these recommendations will help to tackle the skills gap in the UK today and reduce the proportion of young people currently not in education, employment or training (currently 12%).

Key findings

Developing key skills

According to the research, most young people have had some experience of work. However, over half (56%) say it’s difficult to gain experience required for their desired future career. A similar proportion (54%) of young people said they weren’t given any training during their work experience, 49% weren’t told what skills they’d need to get a job in the organisation and 25% were not given any feedback on their performance during their placement.

Clearly there are areas where employers can improve the work experience they provide; however, schools could also be doing more to help arrange placements. While a considerable 58% of 16-21 year olds say their school arranged their work experience, there is evidence that access to work experience through schools is becoming increasingly restricted, with schools no longer obliged to provide placements. In fact, 64% of those now aged 19-21 were offered work experience by their school, compared to just 51% of 16-18 year olds.

The findings highlight the need for schools and employers to make work experience more accessible to young people, the majority of whom find it extremely beneficial:

    • 65% say that work experience improved their confidence

    • 63% say it helped them to develop their teamwork and communications skills

    • 61% say it gave them a sense of achievement

    • 88% recognise that it is important to employers when it comes to recruitment

Shaping future leaders

The research reveals that many young people aspire to become leaders:

    • 63% are interested in leading a team

    • 40% would like to run a company

    • 37% are attracted to the idea of starting their own business

However, despite these ambitions, young people are not very confident in their communication and leadership skills. In fact, just 25% think they are very good at communicating what they think or taking initiative. Even fewer say they are very good at speaking in front of a group of people (15%) or getting people to work together (14%).

Advice and guidance

According to the results, teacher and parents/carers are the most common sources of advice on work and careers (for 77% and 73% of young people, respectively). Both groups have a considerable amount of influence, making it essential that they are well-equipped to provide information about local employers, local jobs, and a variety of career pathways, including apprenticeships.

The findings suggest that employers could be doing more to support young people. Only 18% of young people have been given jobs and careers advice by employers.

It appears that more focus also needs to be placed on promoting apprenticeships as an alternative to university. 86% of young people say their school provides information on going to university, whereas just 48% say they have received information on apprenticeships. This has resulted in mixed perceptions about apprenticeships. In fact, just 37% of young people associate the schemes with a good career.

Finding jobs

Notably, the results show that one in three young people (32%) do not feel confident about getting a job in the next couple of years, with those coming from the lowest socio-economic groups less confident finding a job locally than those from the highest (33% compared to 25%).

Londoners are the most confident, however 24% still believe they won’t be able to find a job. Young people living in the North East and Wales (39%), the South West (37%) and the West Midlands (36%) are the most likely to feel that they won’t be able to find work in the area they live in.

Read the full report to learn more about EY Foundation and CMI’s recommendations for tackling the situation.

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