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Employment and training

Youth unemployment: five actions employers can take right now

A woman, sitting on her desk, celebrates receiving a job offer over the phone.

At Catch22 we are directly witnessing the impact youth unemployment is having on the people we work with. Here, our Director of Employability Victoria Head talks about the five actionable steps employers can take to have an impact.

650,000 people lost their jobs between March and June 2020, and as the furlough scheme is set to end in October, figures are expected to rise further.

Young people are clearly being hit the hardest, and they face the most uncertainty; they are the most likely to have been furloughed, many had insecure, temporary jobs beforehand, and now 1 in 3 18-to-24 year olds are earning less than they were pre-COVID-19 (Resolution Foundation). We are seeing 47,000 more young people unemployed than this time last year.

At this stage of young people’s lives, career moves, and opportunities shape the rest of their lives. Their confidence in their own abilities will be taking a hit and the growing uncertainly is both harmful to their mental health, and will limit the career and business risks and opportunities they take in the future.

We must all work together to reach out to talent in our communities and ensure that support and processes are in place to fulfil their potential.

Here are 5 immediate actions you can take as an employer to have an impact on their future now:  

Offer work experience online

For unemployed young people, particularly those just leaving education, they need work experience just to get an application looked at. Many work experience placements have been cancelled this year but, with the growing demand for digital skills, young people are ready to snap up the opportunity to build their experience remotely.

Programmes like Digital Edge and The Social Switch Project, backed by Microsoft and Google.org,  train participants in the digital skills needed for roles in large technology companies, and they are always looking for organisations who could offer a few weeks work experience. Movement to Work have just launched their Virtual Work Experience toolkit too.

Work experience brings new energy to your organisation, and boosts morale for existing staff who can mentor the young person. It also doesn’t cost a penny.

For the participants themselves, work experience helps young people make informed choices about their future, opens them up to entirely new industries, and gives them career opportunities.

Make the most of the levy and share it

Due to myths and poor awareness of the apprenticeship levy, thousands of employers are missing out on nurturing talent that is directly suited to their business needs. And thousands more young people are missing out on opportunities to embark on meaningful careers.

All UK businesses with a payroll of £3 million or more make monthly deposits of 0.5 per cent of their annual pay bill into the apprenticeship levy pot. Businesses are then given a rolling 24-month deadline to spend it. It’s shocking that half of businesses who are paying into the levy pot fail to use it; they’ve already paid into a fund specifically designed to train new apprentices and existing staff, but they’re not using it. If unused, that money goes back to the Treasury.

As a large organisation, if you aren’t in a position to use the levy, you can support smaller organisations in their recovery by transferring your apprenticeship levy.  This enables SMEs, who may not be paying an apprenticeship levy, to take on apprentices or upskill their own smaller team, at no extra cost for either organisation.

If you’re a levy paying business in London, by signing up to initiatives like Reskilling the Recovery, you can add to £1.2 million already pledged to SMEs and apply to receive further support.

Take on an apprentice or trainee

By taking on a trainee or apprentice, you can give a young person their first foot on the career ladder, while benefiting from highly motivated and enthusiastic staff. There are significant benefits to take on an apprentice:

  • Boost productivity: Research shows each apprentice brings a gain in productivity of more than £10,000 per year for their employer, with figures for some sectors being even higher.
  • Fill skills gaps: If you’re struggling to find the right staff with the needed skillset, you can train them while they work, with significant cost savings.
  • Support social mobility: ‘Earn and learn’ training opportunities, such as apprenticeships, are key to helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds enter the workplace.

Right now government will give you £2000 for taking on an apprentice (under the age of 25 and £1000 if they are over 25) and other support is available for taking on trainees through the latest Kickstart scheme.

You can use other organisations, like Catch22, to set these up. For example, Microsoft worked with us to set pre-apprenticeship training programme Digital Edge; by skilling up young people from underserved communities, we are helping them access the best digital apprenticeship programmes within Microsoft’s network of customers and partners.

Upskill existing staff

One industry which continues to see new job openings is IT and most businesses have an increasing demand for digital and technological skills. Upskilling is essential in this climate and as your organisation looks towards its future, will your staff at all levels be prepared to adapt?

The apprenticeship levy can be spent on existing staff to help them be prepared for future roles in your organisation, progress their careers, and can benefit your organisation too:

  • Cost-effective training: While employers pay apprentices’ wages, funding is available to cover many of the other training costs.
  • Build staff loyalty: When you invest in employers’ training, they are more engaged and motivated to stay.
  • Boost motivation: When staff have something to walk towards which has a long term benefit, like their own upskilling, they will be more motivated both personally and professionally.

Ask your team about how they might like to upskill, then look at how you can support them in both voluntary roles and training. For example:

  • Work experience for young people gives you more experienced staff new ideas and a chance to mentor.
  • Public speaking can be improved by attending ‘inset days’ where senior leaders talk to young people for an hour or so, sharing stories of their own careers and influencing the next generation. Bright Light and The Social Switch Project are holding these online regularly.
  • Mentoring benefits everyone through advocacy and impartial, personal guidance. Contact Inspiring Connections if you’d like to get involved.

Improve your existing policies

Improve your existing policies to build diversity and reach out to those who are too often left behind. By using this time to improve the structures you already have in place, you’ll benefit your recruitment, your brand, and your entire organisation.

  • What are you doing to actively reach out to those who have faced hardship? Programmes like Bright Light with The Children’s Society support London’s care leavers and want to find them sustainable and meaningful work; Barclays LifeSkills provides employers with access to unique, but often overlooked, pools of talent, and throughout the COVID-19 crisis, they’ve continued to deliver support online through LinkedIn events. Finally, Jobs 22 brings the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors together to maximise job opportunities.
  • Sign up to initiatives that create change.
      • Ban the Box means committing to removing the yes/no option so early in the recruitment process, stopping those with a record from being screened out prematurely. Many people have a history and you can ask about these sorts of things at a later stage.
      • Movement to Work have just launched their Emerge Stronger campaign to assist in the COVID-19 job recoveryBy collaborating with a national network of more than 100 organisations, Movement to Work provides opportunities to young people and a strong collective voice to government.

If you are an employer eager to support the situation so many young people currently find themselves in, and you want to make sure your business is in the best possible position in 6-12 months’ time, action must be taken now.