Youth unemployment: Students showing ‘serious concern’ over how they will gain necessary skills for job market

Almost half of young people are still blaming the ongoing impact of the recession for a lack of jobs

Today’s young people are a “generation in crisis,” according to a recent report, as more and more express “serious concern” over how they will gain the necessary skillset required to enter the job market.

Young Enterprise - the UK’s leading charity that empowers young people - has surveyed 1,000 16 to 18-year-olds in full-time education to find half say greater international competition for jobs is contributing to them finding it difficult in landing work, while 46 per cent still blame the ongoing impact of the recession for a lack of jobs.

Unequal opportunities for young people from different social backgrounds was also raised: 16 per cent said unpaid internships were only a feasible option for those from high-income families.

This, says the report, is a reminder that, for many working-class students, the route to securing the necessary part-time or voluntary internships to enter certain career paths was “financially problematic and unrealistic.”

Other key findings have shown how, despite gaining a full-time education, almost half of students believe academic qualifications are not enough to secure a professional job, while 58 per cent say they believe they will struggle to get a job because of a lack of work experience or not because they don’t have enough knowledge in entrepreneurship.

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A further 31 per cent feel they are not being taught relevant and necessary employment skills required in the workplace, such as teamwork, confidence, and problem-solving, while another third say they are not given enough guidance and consultation when choosing their career.

Employers are also expecting “too much of school leavers,” said the team behind the research: the British Chambers of Commerce’s Workforce Survey found 54 per cent of British firms believed graduates were not prepared for work, while 88 per cent said the same about school leavers.

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Young Enterprise’s own survey has found that, overall, 90 per cent of respondents say they believe employers expect too much from them by assuming they should be able to instantly adapt to the world of work and multitask in new environments. Of this figure, 34 per cent say employers “expect too many qualifications,” 33 per cent think employers “expect too much work experience,” and 22 per cent feel expectations are “too high” around character skills development. 

Commenting on the research, Michael Mercieca, chief executive of Young Enterprise, described how youth unemployment has been “a blight on the lives of millions of young people for too long” across the UK. He said it brings “serious financial and social implications,” not only for the individuals, but also for wider economic productivity and growth.

Mr Mercieca continued: “Academic attainment is only part of the journey to building a well-rounded individual and workforce. Young people don’t need sympathy and rhetoric - they need opportunity to learn, not ‘guidance’ and ‘signposting’.

“It’s essential that schools, charities, and businesses work together in a long-term, national programme to ensure all young people have the opportunity to develop these essential character skills and gain experience of work and entrepreneurism, no matter what their financial background.

“The findings of this report are both startling and essential if we, as a country, are to address the crisis facing our young people.”