Youth Unemployment, Top Economists, Business Leaders On How To Help Young Jobless

A woman holding a sign saying 'need job'
A woman holding a sign saying 'need job'

Youth unemployment has remained stubbornly high this year, with the number rising by 9,000 from February to April this year.

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics estimates that the number of young people in work fell by 77,000 to 2.6 million over the same period. The state of youth unemployment in the UK is beaten only by Spain and Greece, according to the OECD.

With nearly a million young people out of work, HuffPostUK has gathered Britain's business and economic experts to offer their own ideas on how to get young people into jobs. And in a political debate full of uncosted platitudes, how would they fund it?

Diane Coyle, former Treasury adviser and head of Enlightenment Economics, calls for a government guarantee of education, training, an apprenticeship or a job for any young person out of work for over four months.

"These options would have to be delivered by a mix of "active labour market policies", such as assistance with job search, CVs, and mentoring, and financial incentives for employers, because young employees are just not as productive as more experienced ones and so some subsidy is needed."

Coyle suggests helping deliver this by slashing national insurance rates on employers for hiring young people.

Andrew Sentance, chief economist at PwC and former Bank of England official, echoes Coyle's recommendation of slashing national insurance for hiring younger workers

"This would reflect the fact that they don't have as much experience and therefore employers need to provide more training and supervision," he says.

Sentance also suggests offering greater advice for young people wanting to start up their own business, "with Local Enterprise Partnerships providing advice and support for young entrepreneurs."

Youth Unemployment Case study

flanaganPeter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan, a 19 year old from Lisburn, Northern Ireland, has been looking for work for three years, despite applying regularly for office, hospitality and retail work.

“I’ve been going for everything now, from shops, offices, hospitality, bakery, Tesco’s, Costcutter , Jeffers Bakery and Premier Inn, just to name a few!”

“But with no experience it's like you aren't even considered even though I have good GCSE and A-Level Grades.”

Flanagan isn’t giving up though. Despite only getting one interview after his efforts, he has been working casually as an events pianist - but the search for full-time work continues.

Ruth Lea, chief economic adviser at the Arbuthnot Banking Group, says educational standards need to tighten up to improve young people's "work attitudes".

"Time and time again business organisations have told us why, pointing to relative poor work attitudes and educational standards in parts of the youth labour market. The “solution” is therefore clear – better attitudes and higher educational standards inculcated in schools. This doesn’t take increased funding," she says.

Lea's analysis touches on the recommendations of business groups like the Confederation of British Industry.

Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills, says: "We need education reform, better advice and careers inspiration, and really meaningful vocational learning to help young people develop the right skills and attitudes for work.."

"We need to be focussed on long-term employability for young people in the private sector, not welfare bean-counting or subsidised public sector jobs.”

Youth Unemployment Case Study

inarakhanInara Khan

Inara Khan, a 24-year old law graduate, has been without work for three years as she has been applying for training contracts to continue her career. Despite applying for 50 positions over the period, she has been offered just two interviews.

She graduated from King’s College London with a 2.1 and has been racking up work experience stints in international law firms in the UK and US.

Despite applying for 50 positions over the period, she has been offered just two interviews. Inara hasn’t been able to take other jobs on due to her focus on applying for training contracts.

“What I’m doing has to look relevant when I’m applying on my CV when applying for contracts.”

In the meantime, Inara has been relying on savings she built up from working in shops from the age of 16 to 22. Unless she get a job in the next few weeks, Inara will have to move back in with her parents in Manchester, making her job search yet harder.

“I’ve got a plethora of letters after my name and I want to start my career

“It does feel quite dejecting to think that I’ve had my degree, I’ve had my masters, and my GDL, and to sustain myself, I’m going to have to go back to that.

Other business leaders argue that the syllabus needs a greater emphasis on workplace education.

Grant Hearn, chief executive of hotel chain Travelodge, says more focus is needed on preparing youth for the workplace.

"This should initially start at school, where young Britons are taught the right skills to help them find a job and to prepare them for the reality of the working environment. Also, a bigger shift needs to take place in employer engagement across all industries with school leavers," he adds.

Simon Walker, director-general of the Institute of Directors, says the government should change apprenticeships to "in favour of the under 19s rather than having them be an adult skills programme".

"Over recent years there has been a tendency for them to be viewed by policy makers and campaigners as a form of welfare, rather than a programme of high-skill training," he adds.

Walker's ultimate answer to solving youth unemployment comes back to the main economic question, as he concludes: "The biggest factor affecting youth unemployment is the overall performance of the economy."

Now it remains to be seen what policymakers will come up with in order to get young people into work.