Too few employers provide opportunities for school leavers, according to the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development.
The professional body for personnel staff argues companies should be more willing to help out with the UK's youth unemployment crisis. There are lots of things businesses could do to help, the institute says - from youth engagement strategies (whatever they are) to school leaver programmes or creating apprenticeships.
To me, only the latter sounds of enormous help. But since the institute's own members are likely to be those implementing recruitment freezes, cutting training budgets and refusing to take risks on those fresh out of school or college, I would offer a few more suggestions.
First, the insidious rise of zero-hours contracts has to be reversed. They represent an unacceptable shift in the balance of power between employer and employee. Yes, it suits some people to work in this way, but they are the tiny minority. For businesses, the ability to take on and dispense with workers in response to the fluctuations of the market makes sense. But if you need to eat, pay rent, plan for the future, or enjoy any peace of mind, you need to have some idea of what work and income you can expect from a job.
Sometimes such contracts are offered through third party recruitment agencies, while a largely illusory full-time job with the primary company is dangled like a carrot. Amazon has been much criticised for this, and it is a crude and cruel con trick.
Companies that claim to be job creators yet employ such practices should rethink their position. So should firms that prop up the Government's discredited mandatory unpaid work placements. Lest we forget, the UK Government was defeated in the courts in the spring over this scheme. The Department for Work and Pensions was told by the Court Of Appeal it had illegally cut the benefits payments of people who refused to work free for companies such as Poundland.
Those penalised had not had the system properly explained to them and 231,000 people wrongly punished by the system were due an average of £550 each in repayments. Instead of paying up, the Government retrospectively changed the law so that, in effect, it had been right all along. Against this kind of cynicism, it is remarkable young people remain as placid as they seem to.
Perhaps it is better in Scotland. The Scottish Government's promise to create 25,000 modern apprenticeships a year should be praised. When unemployment figures were revealed last week, the numbers fell in Scotland, while south of the border they rose. Could this be connected to a more convincing effort to provide school leavers with real opportunities?
Yesterday, Young Scot announced it had issued one of National Entitlement Cards to more than 500,000 young people since 1985. An event to mark the occasion was accompanied by a survey asking young people what they would most like discounts on.
The answer, given that 75% of those surveyed had less than £50 in disposable income for the average month, was 'almost everything'. Without jobs and real opportunities, those embarking on independent life for the first time are getting a raw deal. Governments need to support them, not allow profit-hungry companies to exploit them, in the name of work experience or flexibility.
Unless more opportunities can be made available, we are storing up problems with an alienated, overqualified, frustrated generation given little chance to demonstrate what they can do, and facing depressed pay and conditions when those chances do materialise.
To its credit, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development admits this. Businesses should try harder to bring in young people to avoid a future skills shortage and a disillusioned generation, it says. "Many of our members have demonstrated innovative practices when it comes to championing young people in their organisations," says Katerina Rüdiger, head of skills.
But while others are innovating in the arts of expediency and exploitation, it is hard to feel convinced the system is working in the interests of young workers.
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