Preparing young people for work – what are the biggest challenges?

Rosi Prescott, Central YMCA’s Chief Executive, answers some of the key questions facing young people and their route to employment.
Rosi Prescott, Central YMCA’s Chief Executive

What do you think are the biggest challenges with preparing young people for the workforce?

For a lot of young people a major stepping stone from education to long-term employment is apprenticeships. The government has realised this – and now works closely with businesses to bring the standards of these schemes up. Official standards have also been set to ensure that young people are getting the best experience possible.

Although apprenticeship schemes are improving, and increasing in popularity, we still need better engagement between schools and local businesses to prepare young people for work and training.

An increased focus needs to be placed on this, as well as better careers advice in schools.

We still need better engagement between schools and local businesses to prepare young people for work and training
Rosi Prescott, Central YMCA’s Chief Executive

When young people really want to work but don't, what do you think is holding them back?

It can be down to a number of issues – they might not have the family network in place to support them, they might have issues with body image leading to low self esteem, be suffering from substance abuse issues, or worse.

Our 2016 World of Good report flagged these as major issues for the 16-25 age group.

Often people automatically label these people as ‘lazy’, when in fact they might be dealing with lots of underlying issues.

We find that a lot of people we work with are perfectly capable, but just don’t have the self-confidence to apply themselves or thrive in a traditional environment that would prepare them for work. It’s in this sort of situation where mentoring programmes and one-to-one support really helps – we just need to recognise that getting young people into work can’t be done with a rigid approach, rather be tailored to the individual.

What can we do to better prepare young people for long and successful careers? Where are the current skills/knowledge gaps?

Offer them sound advice from a young age, invest in more learning and development that is actually right for that certain individual, as well as giving them access to work experience in school, college and beyond. The benefits of businesses engaging with young people is obvious, we now just need more of them to do it – not least to fill widening skills gaps, which are now posing huge recruitment issues.

On top of this, schools need to be promoting the benefits of apprenticeships more effectively. Often they are overlooked as a career option, or even dismissed as they pose competition for the funding associated with the learner.

We need to be identifying the jobs that the industry is crying out for, and educating young people in these areas. For example, last year the CIOB highlighted the need for 182,000 construction jobs to be filled by 2018, and yet, just 7,280 people completed construction apprenticeships in 2013. There’s a clear gap between the talent we need, compared to the apprenticeships being taken in those fields.

The benefits of businesses engaging with young people is obvious, we now just need more of them to do it
Rosi Prescott, Central YMCA’s Chief Executive

What challenges do young people face now that they didn't five, ten, 20 years ago?

The issues facing young people these days are complex and ever-changing. Widely recognised and discussed issues such as inflation, increasing house prices and rising education fees are just scratching the surface.

They are also facing an increasing number of ‘invisible’ issues that are unlikely to appear in Government statistics, such issues connected to body image, 24-hour social networking, and pressures of a materialism – some of the top causes of harm in our report.

It may be true that the current generation of youngsters has a better quality of life than previous generations, but these concerns cause genuine harm, especially to the most vulnerable people within society.

We must now make sure we don’t tackle these issues in isolation and instead, take a rounded view of all of these. Agencies supporting young people must now work together to combat these increasingly complex issues.

Rosi Prescott

Central YMCA’s Chief Executive

Rosi Prescott is responsible for running the world's first YMCA – Central YMCA – which operates locally, nationally and internationally. Rosi joined the organisation in 2004 and has played a huge part in the revolution which has taken place within Central YMCA over the past decade. In particular, she has spearheaded a number of high profile campaigns addressing issues such as body image, peer-to-peer health, apprenticeships and youth unemployment.