Graham Bann MVO, Executive Director, Talent & Skills at Business in the Community reflects on the Big Ticks, Highly Commended and Winning entries to the Inspiring Young Talent Award 2014.
It’s tempting to look at the falling overall rate of unemployment and think that things are getting better for young people in the UK. However as our economy improves, youth unemployment becomes more of a pressing issue, not less.
Here’s why: the recent downturn hit an unusually large cohort of young people disproportionately hard, excluding them from that first vital chance to gain experience and get their feet on the career ladder. The result is that under the surface of falling overall unemployment, is a more worrying truth: the numbers aren’t dropping nearly as quickly for young people.
They have been frozen out.
Many businesses have clung onto bad recruitment habits they picked up during the recession meaning huge numbers of young people are being left out of the recovery. That is why it is vital that now, more than ever, UK businesses actively harness the talent and skills of this generation of young people and create the future workforce that will keep the recovery on track.
Thankfully, all over the UK, companies of all sizes are developing creative programmes that draw this talent into their businesses and helps it to grow it as their needs grow.
Business in the Community’s Inspiring Young Talent Award recognises these companies, which are showing the way forward and making the most of this talented generation. Competition this year was especially fierce, and we not only had the highest ever number of entries but also attracted the highest number of applications across all categories in BITC.
Collectively the activity of our 38 entrants supported 417,193 young people, either directly into roles, or by improving their capacity to gain work. This is one aspect of the entrants’ work, which is really reassuring to see, namely companies not just recruiting young people, but also recognising the incredible power they have in helping even greater numbers of young people on their journey to work, even if it is not within their own company.
The extraordinary number of entrants not only reflects the scale of the problem to be tackled, but it undoubtedly shows the growing ambition of companies to rise to the challenge. However it’s only the very best of these applicants that can make it through both the gruelling peer-assessment and the nerve-wracking presentation to judges to receive the coveted Big Tick. Achieving this sought-after accolade meant they not only had to demonstrate a strong social case for their activity, but also a robust business case with the strict monitoring and evaluation practices that go hand-in-hand with any other significant investment of a company’s time and money.
This year’s crop of entrants came from an incredibly diverse range of sectors, from luxury handbag manufacturers to legal services, and they covered a whole spectrum of approaches. What really stood out for me were those examples of companies beginning to combine their interventions into a tightly managed 'talent pipeline’. Deliberately coordinating a series of interventions in young people’s lives, starting with raising aspirations early on in school, followed up with work placements that really inspire, and leading on to accessible employment routes like traineeships and apprenticeships.
It is these forward-thinking companies that are showing what the future will look like, a future where businesses create a seamless transition from learning to work for talented young people and at the same time, cut off youth unemployment at the source.
All of our shortlisted companies should be justly proud of what they have achieved. EE, who took the top accolade as our overall category winner, demonstrated an innovative and successful approach to attracting and retaining new talent; not only transforming the lives of young people living locally, but also changing their whole approach to developing talent, resulting in lower attrition rates in an industry that traditionally suffers from high turnover. The Judges also highly commended Asda for its needs-led programme. With local decisions made by local stores, the scale and numbers achieved over such a short period of time and the strong buy-in from colleagues was fantastic to see.
Impressive as all of this year’s case studies are, each story had humble beginnings with a company giving a chance to just one young person, changing just one life. So I urge you to read the Inspiring Young Talent case studies, to not only learn from the best but also to see where they started and think where your company’s youth employment story could begin.
For information about what BITC can do to support your business on this issue please contact me at Graham.Bann@bitc.org.uk.