We often talk about difficulties within the labour market, particularly shortages of availability of candidates in some sectors, and skills gaps in others. We see more and more businesses struggling to find the talent they need to expand and succeed.
It's a fact that statutory minimum pay rates for those aged 22 and under are less than for those aged 23 and above (recently lowered from age 25+). Whilst this is often argued as unfair, one of the drivers behind this Government decision is to protect employment opportunities for young people by making them a more cost-effective option to employers.
Experts say there’s clear evidence of the benefits young people can bring to a workplace; strengthening your talent pipeline, better workforce diversity and improving your employer brand plus the unique skills they can bring in terms of knowledge, motivation and innovation.
But, when looking for work, young people are often left feeling demoralised after scrolling through endless job adverts asking for previous experience, leaving them wondering ‘but how do I get the experience if no one will give me a chance?’ There’s no doubt that our young people have been hit hard by the pandemic too, the unemployment rate for those aged 16-24 for the period January to March 2021 was 13.3%, up from 12.1% a year before, likely due to the numbers of young people working in sectors forced to close during the national lockdowns.
So, it’s mutually beneficial - businesses need young people and young people need jobs.
Back in July 2020, the Government announced a raft of measures with over £2 billion set out to address issues relating to youth unemployment - including:
- Kickstart - employers are given funding to create new opportunities for people aged 16-24 who are at risk of long term unemployment
- Apprenticeships - a financial incentive of £3,000 is available to employers who have a new apprentice (of any age) join their organisation between 1 April 21 and 30 Sept 21
- Traineeships - investment towards flexible programmes consisting of training and work experience elements, designed for those not yet ready for an apprenticeship
These programmes offer structured routes for employers to engage and connect with young people in the job market.
Many employers are also recognising the benefit of forging links with schools and education providers to create pathways into employment by capturing their interest early on and offering work experience schemes.
But how can businesses best ensure they attract, nurture and retain the talent of tomorrow?
ATTRACTION AND SELECTION
How and where you advertise can have a big impact on the diversity within your applications. Consider the wording you use within job adverts and where those adverts are placed in order to reach and appeal to, the entire cross-section of the market. Clearly, adverts should never be discriminatory and employers should be mindful of any unconscious bias that may occur.
Just because statutory minimum pay rates exist, quite rightly, for worker protection, there's nothing stopping employers from paying more - in fact, it's advisable to do so to attract the best talent, particularly in relation to Apprenticeships.
A business may wish to review their recruitment process considering the fact that it’s likely a young person will have little to no previous experience in an interview. Whilst any interview will be a learning experience for them, framing it as an initial ‘chat’ may help to allay any fears - enabling the interviewer to get more out of the potential candidate. Thought should be given to the line of questioning, stock questions looking for work-based examples or experience are not going to be relevant. Instead, focus on learning more about the individual’s personality traits, interests and academic achievements.
SET CLEAR AND REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Once onboarded, be clear about what your expectations are - and ensure they’re realistic and relative to the level of the job and the ability of the employee.
For example, part of the purpose of the Kickstart scheme is to teach young people the very basics of the world of work such as punctuality and attendance. Conversely, many young people would be put off by a role that offers little in the way of a challenge; they’re capable and keen to get stuck in and make a valuable contribution from the start.
LINE MANAGEMENT IS KEY
Line managers act as the link between employee and the company; it’s important to gain their buy-in to having a young person on their team. Short-term, they might require more support and guidance so line managers need to be available, offer clear channels of communication and empathy.
Line managers have a huge influence over someone's experience and subsequent satisfaction in a job role and so are key to the development and retention of young talent.
ROUTES TO SUCCESS
As with any recruitment, once you’ve secured and invested in an employee, you want to ensure you can retain that talent within the business. It can be helpful for both parties to have a clear plan set out for the short, medium and longer-term - whether that includes informal or formal training, taking on additional tasks/responsibilities and opportunities for progression.
And finally, feedback is crucial. It's your best resource so use it to your advantage! Diversifying your workforce can take time and effort; voices within your business are best placed to help continually improve your offering.