Why businesses should be inspiring young people to make a difference

The world of work is changing fast. The increasing focus on employability skills such as communication, resilience and team working is causing challenges for both organisations and individuals. Whilst this is undoubtedly true for all employees, it presents a particular challenge for young people.

Any young person looking for their first job will have had little opportunity to develop these employability skills but there is also a social mobility dimension at play. Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to have had access to the work experience that will start to develop these skills. All too often quality work experience and paid part-time work is available only to those whose parents are well connected enough to help them.

In a recent survey of employers, 85% said that they prioritise character & attitude over academic results (CBI & Pearson, 2015). Yet young people are often unaware of this fact and unsure how they would go about building and demonstrating these qualities. Which is why youth social action is so important. Social action such as volunteering gives young people the opportunity to develop the skills, experience and confidence they need to fulfil their potential and achieve their ambitions – in work as well as future life.

And social action has a double benefit; it helps develop the 21st Century skills and character that employers are looking for whilst creating a stronger society. The more enlightened businesses who recognise this are better able to access recruits with the skills they need now and also the qualities that will be required for the business of the future.

During Volunteers Week, the annual event that recognises and celebrates the contribution made by millions of volunteers across the UK, the #iwill campaign is highlighting the value of youth social action and encouraging adults to give their support. There are some great examples of businesses that are tackling this issue and having a real impact, including British Gas, EDF and Lloyds Banking Group.

At British Gas, all apprentices aged under 25 at their Engineering Academies work complete the Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award which requires volunteering a minimum of 48 hours a year, as well as completing multiple fundraising events. Since the programme began in 2007, their engineers have given over 45,000 volunteering hours to their local charities and communities.
EDF has launched a new ‘Pod in the Community’ campaign for the 18,700 schools (c. 60% of UK schools) that have joined EDF Energy’s education programme, the Pod to inspire young people in those schools to research and take part in ‘Helping Hands’ activities that benefit their local communities. EDF also ensure that social action by young people is valued and recognised during EDF Energy’s recruitment processes. EDF continue to recognise the value of adult volunteering by aiming to have 20% of EDF Energy employees taking part in volunteering by 2020 – as well as encouraging them to support young people taking part in social action.
Lloyds Scholars is a unique social mobility programme run by the Lloyds Banking Group that offers students from lower income households a complete package of financial support, paid internships, a business mentor and the opportunity to develop their employability skills in exchange for a commitment from young people to completing at least 100 hours’ volunteering in their local community each academic year.

But we need more employers to take action if we are to start to address the joint issues of youth unemployment and skills shortages whilst at the same time, developing good citizens with a deeper understanding and empathy for those around them

  • Adults are needed to support youth social action by volunteering with organisations, such as the Scouts, that support and encourage young people to take part in social action.
  • By explaining to young people why you volunteer and why your employer values volunteering you can help them to understand the power of social action. We have produced a short resource pack that we are launching during Volunteers Week. (You can download it free of charge at www.iwill.org.uk)

Above all we need businesses to advocate the value of social action, for example, by making it part of their recruitment criteria, so that we can give all young people the opportunity (See the great toolkit developed by the CIPD at www.iwill.org.uk)

 


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