Future Proof your workforce

-Chris Jones, City & Guilds Group CEO

Employers are missing a massive trick. Some of the most talented candidates are filtered out before being considered for an interview. This is robbing UK businesses of the chance to cultivate the next generation of workers – and it needs to change, otherwise our economy will be at risk.

The main reasons talent is filtered out? No work experience and difficult, confusing application processes. In a recent survey of 4000 18-24 year olds, commissioned by the City & Guilds Group and Business in the Community (BITC), we found that 57% believe a lack of experience has been a barrier to finding employment. And one in five (22%) young people who had a bad experience of a recruitment process were put off a company completely.

There are a number of things you can do so that you’re in a better position to attract and recruit young people.

1. Make the application process more accessible

It’s tempting to think that a difficult application process can help separate stronger and weaker job applicants. But often, a long-winded process not only wastes time, but can knock the confidence of those young people who struggle with applications. They could be applying for their first ever job, and need that extra helping hand. And, as our research shows, cumbersome applications can also damage a company’s reputation. You could risk losing a major customer base for life.

Adjusting the job role and removing jargon is one of the easiest ways to simplify an application process. Hiring managers should also be realistic about what’s needed for specific job applications. Most entry-level jobs shouldn’t require a long, drawn-out interview process for example.

2. Recognise that no experience is OK for entry level jobs

Young people need experience to get a job, but they can’t get a job without experience, creating a vicious cycle.

To be fair, you may receive hundreds of applicants for one vacancy; it seems safest to take the one with the most experience. But take the time to think about whether you really need on-the-job experience for an entry-level job. Are there other types of experience that you could look at too? For example, school activities and voluntary work can really help develop things like team work, or communication skills.

3. Provide feedback

Making the job offer to the successful applicant is the best part of the recruitment process – but have you thought about how you’re going to turn the others down?
Instead of sending a quick courtesy email, provide them with quality feedback instead. Our survey found more than a third of those who received feedback after an interview found it useful. Yet, 58% said they’d never received any feedback.

Giving young people some post-interview pointers could really help their future careers and will likely leave them with a much better impression of your company too.

4. Use tools and guidance to Future Proof your workforce

We all need support when trying to attract and recruit young people. So BITC has launched a campaign, Future Proof, backed by the City & Guilds Group, to do just that. Future Proof helps businesses break down the barriers in their recruitment processes and create quality accessible jobs for young people.
As part of this, BITC has created the Youth Employment Framework, which includes tools and examples to help businesses inspire, hire and grow the best entry-level candidates.

5. Invest in young people
According to the CIPD, 30% of the workforce is over 50 – equivalent to 9.4m people – and one in 10 is over 60, meaning many of our skilled workers will retire in the next 20 years. Meanwhile youth unemployment rates remain stubbornly high – currently at 13.7%. That’s 2.5 times the rate of overall unemployment and totals some 848,000 young people.

However, over the next decade 700,000 fewer 16 - 49 year olds will be in the workplace, meaning that young people will become a scarcer resource than they are today. That’s why it’s important to invest in young people. Yes, recruiting someone without experience means you’ll have to train them, but it really does pay off in the long run. By bringing in fresh talent, it will help businesses stay ahead in their industries. And, by helping to cut the 13.7% youth unemployment rate, our economy will also benefit.

The bottom line is: if businesses want to thrive and grow, they have to think seriously about how they will secure future talent and prevent great candidates from slipping through the cracks. That means breaking down barriers to support young people as they make that all important transition from education to employment. The stakes are too high to ignore this.

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As CEO, and as head of the Management Board, Chris' role is to set the strategic direction of the Group. He plays a prominent role in driving the national and international skills agenda – something he has personal experience in, as he followed the vocational education path himself. Since joining in 2008, he has led the City & Guilds Group through a period of significant growth, which has enabled further investment in the organisation.