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Bridging the youth unemployment gap and ensuring a bright future for young people and employers

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Businesses should connect with young people before they leave education, recommends Claudia Harris, CEO of The Careers & Enterprise Company.

Tell us about The Careers & Enterprise Company

It’s an employer-led organisation set up to inspire and prepare young people for the fast-changing world of work. Having a job you enjoy is a core part of the human experience and much more can be done to help young people identify what they’re good at, what they love and potential opportunities.

What do you love about your job?

I’ve had the opportunity to help people find work they love, from supporting microfinance and aiding people in starting small businesses, to helping women progress in their careers. I am part of the steering committee for the ‘30% Club’, which aims to achieve a minimum of 30% women on FTSE-100 boards. 

What are the key challenges for young people in finding employment?

Youth unemployment remains high in the UK yet businesses are unable to hire, resulting in 700,000 current unfilled vacancies. This is a fundamental problem for our economy and future.

Often, young people leave education without experience of the workplace or clear understanding of what’s valued by employers. They are overwhelmed by the careers information available, and decisions are made without a full comprehension of the opportunities.

Findings from the Gatsby Foundation highlight three interventions young people should experience while in education: encounters with employers, workplaces and higher/further education; information about the labour market and careers; and assistance in creating a plan.

What is the disconnect between education and work?

Employers, schools and colleges operate on different timetables and speak different languages. This makes it difficult to form lasting connections.

Our chair, Christine Hodgson, chairman of Capgemini UK, explains that we need an adapter to fit between schools, colleges and employers and must help the two worlds work together.

How can education and businesses help bridge the youth unemployment gap?

Businesses need to connect to young people to inspire and engage them before they leave education, allowing them to take control of their future and prepare for work.

Research suggests that encounters with employers and higher education providers can have a transformational effect on young people.

According to Dr Anthony Mann from the Education & Employers Taskforce, young adults who have greater levels of contact with employers while at school are significantly less likely than their peers to become NEET (not in education, employment or training) and earn up to 18% more.

How is the world of work evolving?

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) account for the majority of employment opportunities in the UK and more people than ever run their own businesses. Industries are transforming and many companies that will become household names in ten years’ time do not yet exist. It’s our job to ensure young people are in a position to take advantage of future opportunities.

Is resilience a core skill?

Without question. Today, most working people in the UK are employed in SMEs and 15% of the population run businesses, while 30% of young people say they would like to run their own business in the future. We are heading for an avalanche of entrepreneurialism.

Research shows people who feel they planned their career journeys are happier than those for whom it felt random. Understanding and nurturing the ‘start-up of you’ will be important. We are helping young people understand their strengths and navigate their careers through real-world-related experiences.

Three key barriers to employers and education working together:

  1. Inconsistent coverage of careers advice and opportunities across the UK
  2. Lack of clarity around what works when equipping young people for future employment
  3. Challenges around employers and schools and colleges connecting with each other

Claudia Harris CEO, The Careers & Enterprise Company

Claudia was appointed CEO in June 2015. Previously, she was a partner at McKinsey & Company.

Achievements since her appointment:

  • Conducting ‘Cold Spot’ analysis to identify in which areas of the UK young people are most in need of greater careers and enterprise support
  • Building a national network to connect schools and colleges to local employers across the country: The Enterprise Adviser Network
  • Launching a mentoring programme fund to help scale up proven mentoring programmes across the country, in areas where young people are most disengaged from education
  • Recruiting 75 full-time ‘enterprise coordinators’ and 1,000-plus high-quality business volunteers (‘enterprise advisers’) – increasing interaction between young people and employers

Changeboard digital magazine

This article was featured in the November 2016-January 2017 issue of Changeboard magazine.

To read this article plus many more inspiring stories around the career, talent and leadership agenda; click here and open our digital edition straight on your desktop.

Sarah Clark

By Sarah Clark


Online features editor at Changeboard



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