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Are Young People an Investment Risk?

There are about one million young people aged 16-24 who are not in employment, training or education. The worrying fact, according to recent research, is that there is a decline in the hiring of young people. It seems that, generally, employers prefer to recruit more experienced candidates over young people. It really doesn't help that so many young people lack the most basic educational skills. Literacy and numeracy skills are at shockingly low levels. This was confirmed by research published recently but comes as no surprise to most employers who have been aware of the problem for some time.

In the ideal world, employers are looking for someone who can ‘hit the ground running’, that is immediately operational and productive. If they can’t have that, they want really good raw material. Let’s face it, a candidate who has no previous experience and poor basic skills will struggle to demonstrate their credentials. Training new staff can be time consuming and costly and of course another risk factor is the tendency of young people to move job more frequently than older workers.

School leavers and graduates lack the experience of the workplace and the job-specific skills and may thus constitute some sort of ‘risk’. Many employers worry about the level of training and support they need to provide to young workers. Many young people respond poorly to the self-discipline required in the workplace. On a number of occasions, after giving informal guidance I move to formal and eventually dismissal. I usually give young people a bit more slack (early days in the workplace and all that) but if they don’t accept the requirements they will be gone. You’d be amazed how many young people are dismissed for poor timekeeping. They depart in a cloud of amazed indignation muttering darkly about it “only being five minutes” and their “human rights”. I've heard it so many times I could write the script … oh dear.

Interesting findings from the research indicate that employers’ expectations are often somewhat unrealistic when it comes to young people. But it’s exactly the same with young peoples’ expectations about their new workplace! There is a clearly a misalignment between career aspirations of young people and labour market demand. Many youngsters want to be a celebrity or want to be on the X Factor as a career. School leavers have ambitions relating to where they want to work which are often extremely limited and do not match current job opportunities and areas of future jobs growth. Furthermore, quite a few young people that we had an opportunity to speak to, sadly, stated rather unrealistic work ambitions. This may contribute to the perceived disconnect between young people and employers: young people are mobile and more likely to want a job that offers them some sort of meaning and a better work–life balance. Some students told us that they would rather do a low-skilled job and be paid more than working for the NMW for a big employer.

We are aware that many senior schools and colleges do help their students in transition from education to work life but it’s not enough for our future workforce. As part of its CSR Russell HR Consulting has designed three workshops called Fly Your Own Rocket which we deliver to young people age 14 – 18. We give very practical advice on how to start planning what they want to do and how they can get there. Please see our website for more details on Please get in touch if you would like to book a place.

We help employers with recruitment and all sorts of HR issues too.

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