The Blog

Businesses Must Create Environments Where Young People Can Thrive

I first met Martine about six years ago. She was unemployed and regularly in trouble with the law. The truth is she had lost her way and needed some guidance. A few weeks ago our paths crossed again; and what a transformation...

I first met Martine about six years ago. She was unemployed and regularly in trouble with the law. The truth is she had lost her way and needed some guidance.

A few weeks ago our paths crossed again; and what a transformation.

Martine left our Get on Track programme with the attitudes and behaviours needed to be successful. However, like so many other young people facing disadvantage across the UK she needed someone to give her a chance.

Luckily for her this came in the form of Southeastern. They recognised her potential and created an environment where she could flourish.

She now co-ordinates recruitment of young people; offering them valuable work experience and a gateway to career success.

This is just one example of a partner we are proud to work with at Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.

However, it is concerning that many of our young people are still telling us significant barriers exist to gain and sustain employment.

Growing up with a disadvantaged background is challenging for a number of reasons. It can lead to low levels of self-esteem, self-confidence and belief - all of which are needed to be empowered in the workplace.

Perhaps though, the single biggest barrier we hear about from the young people we work with relates to social capital.

Studies have repeatedly shown a correlation between young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and failing to have the social networks to gain that vital first step on the ladder.

The old saying: 'It's who you know, not what you know' appears to be ringing true, especially when it comes to work experience opportunities.

A high proportion of the young people I speak to are often unaware about the importance of networks for progression. Some even have a strong resistance to using them as a means to get ahead, viewing it as a form of 'cheating'.

What is important is that businesses realise this concern and address policies to try and rectify it. Not just on the basis of morality but because ultimately they will reap the rewards in their organisational culture, creativity, productivity and bottom line.

As Employment Minister Priti Patel commented last week at the launch of our new Go The Extra Mile campaign: the benefits of a diverse workforce is proven logic. She also highlighted the high amount of untapped potential that was been overlooked.

The young people who come through our programmes leave with so much confidence, focus, motivation, determination and resilience that they would be a real asset to any company.

By 2020, an expected 'soft skills' deficit is estimated to cost the UK economy £8.4 billion per year. This demonstrates a clear need for employers in today's market to adjust their recruitment processes.

The days of judging candidates solely on their academic performance and experience is no longer a viable option. They must instead be judged on potential and attitudes.

Indeed, it has been proven that the technical skills required for the majority of roles can be taught through effective internal training. What will be decisive in the coming years is a candidate's resilience and willpower during the challenging economic times that lie ahead.

There is a definite realisation from industry that change is needed and many of the companies we work with have already taken action recruiting on potential for the future; however on a larger scale the pace of change needs to be quicker.

We are reaching a stage where an emerging generation of talent could be lost. This will impact on the life chances of hundreds of thousands of young people, along with some significant consequences for businesses themselves.

Last week I sat around a table with business leaders in London, who unanimously agreed the solutions and benefits to industry were "obvious". Now is the time we need to act.

Dame Kelly Holmes Trust is calling on businesses - ranging from large corporation right down to micro businesses - to realise the potential of young people and enable them to thrive in the workplace. For more information about how you can get involved visit