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Preparing the next generation: have we made progress?

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The CIPD’s Learning to Work programme – along with a new mentoring initiative – has helped HR get more young people ready for employment. Katerina Rüdiger gives Mary Appleton the lowdown.

What's your attitude towards young people?

In September 2012, the results of research by the CIPD suggested that a quarter of employers had failed to recruit a single 16-24 year-old in the preceding 12 months. While 70% acknowledged their duty to help tackle youth unemployment, 49% felt young people were not prepared for work and 63% said those they recruited lacked insight into the working world.

This presented a grim picture of employers’ attitudes towards young people. To encourage organisations to help young people prepare for the workplace and support HR in making the business case for doing so, the CIPD launched its Learning to Work programme in May 2012.

Engaging front line managers

Learning to Work uses a mixture of research reports, practical guidance, volunteering opportunities and top tips drawing on research with employers and young people. Its overarching aim is to increase employers’ engagement with young people to help prepare them for work and make their organisations more youth friendly (through reviewing recruitment methods and creating more access routes).

“We need to help HR think strategically about this, consider the skills their organisations need for the next decade and use this to develop a sustainable future talent pipeline,” says Katerina Rüdiger, who leads the programme.

The latest focus is on engaging managers. “We want to show that [working with young people] is not as time-consuming as you might think and can be very rewarding,” she explains.

While a lot of information exists about creating access routes into your organisation, Rüdiger says there’s little to advise how to make this work from a practical perspective.

With topics including introducing a young person to the world of work and tips on providing structure and methods for supporting them as they develop, the Managing Future Talent guide aims to help anyone looking to increase the number of young people joining their organisation.

Rüdiger admits that there’s still some reluctance among employers, particularly if they have had problems with hiring young people previously. “If something doesn’t work out, you might not take that leap again, but if it goes well you’ll likely see the multiplier effect,” she says.

For Rüdiger, demonstrating the business benefits of hiring young people is essential and she suggests HR needs to improve its overall measuring mechanism to demonstrate true value to the business. “We need to get better at quantifying the benefits – we have anecdotal confirmation but the business requires hard evidence, too. We could get better at demonstrating what could happen if you don’t invest,” she adds (see page 51 for more information on the CIPD’s ‘Valuing your Talent’ initiative).

Personal guidance – steps ahead

To help HR professionals appreciate young people’s challenges first hand, the CIPD is encouraging members to volunteer as mentors in its ‘Steps Ahead’ scheme. With help from Jobcentre Plus, young people aged 18-24 who are actively seeking work are matched with a mentor who provides CV advice, interview guidance and motivation through the job seeking process, in six one-hour sessions.

After an extended two-year pilot, the programme launched in January this year with the deployment of an online portal which ‘matches’ potential mentors and mentees. Since then, around 1,000 mentors have signed up – and by autumn Rüdiger hopes the scheme will reach across England.

Participants agree objectives before the relationship begins and the portal gives access to a range of resources to help mentors guide their mentees.

Feedback, Rüdiger says, has been positive from both sides. “Young people are amazed anyone would give their time for free to do this,” she explains. “Often they’re desperate and have no one to turn to. It’s helpful to have an experienced professional tell you where you’re going wrong.”

For HR professionals, mentoring is a great opportunity to develop your skills and make a difference to society. “At first, some are unsure if they can help, but once they find they can make a difference to someone’s life, they love it.

“Mentors are deepening their understanding of the disconnect between young people and employers, helping them make hiring decisions in their organisations,” she says.

Rüdiger explains that the portal can track user journeys and will soon be able to provide reports on demonstrable outcomes – such as how many mentees have found work.

The plan is to examine ways of accrediting mentors and incentivise more HR professionals to take part. Her ambition is to achieve 10% member engagement in the next five years, but she is keen to point out that the quality of relationships is more important than numbers.

Inspiring the future

There is a shared concern among mentors that young people need access to interventions before the age of 18. The CIPD is partnering with the Education and Employers’ Taskforce ‘Inspiring the Future’ initiative, so members can visit schools, talk about their careers and deliver CV/interview workshops.

“If a young person is jobless for even a few months, their confidence drops and it’s difficult to bring them back from that,” she says. “The earlier they are informed about this stuff, the better.”

So far 1,600 CIPD members have signed up to the initiative and volunteering guides are on hand to support people as they go into schools.

Changing attitudes

Rüdiger feels progress is positive and attitudes among employers are changing. CIPD research from December 2013 suggested that in the previous 12 months, organisations had increased the variety of access routes for job seekers. Some 56% offer more apprenticeships, 50% have more traineeships, 48% have upped their school-leaver programmes and 44% and 37% have more internships and work experience schemes respectively.

Yet she believes there’s still ‘much more to be done’. Ultimately, Rüdiger wants to see employers’ involvement in education to work transitions become the norm and believes the CIPD is well placed to help employers understand their role in this. She argues that there are so many opportunities available, young people need to hear from employers what they expect of them. And for Rüdiger, the key to success is engaging individuals as well as organisations.

“Some young people won’t be ready for work, but that’s ok. We can help bridge the gap. There’s a long way to go, but we are moving in the right direction,” she says.

Mary Appleton

By Mary Appleton

Changeboard

Mary is Changeboard's editor in chief.

Changeboard

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