A recent report by the Office of National Statistics shows the number of young people not in education, employment or training – NEETs as they have become known – has risen for the second consecutive quarter.
In the first three months of this year the total number of NEETs increased by 2000, bringing the total to 865,000. Despite a separate ONS report, published earlier this year, showing Britain’s employment rate hitting a record high of 74.2% in March, part of the rise in the number of NEETs is doubtless driven by the current fragility in the job market.
The results of economic slowdown and changes in the labour market often fall disproportionately on the younger members of the workforce who lack experience, and they are increasingly exploited in a weak labour market which is often characterised by a lack of long-term job opportunities. This burden is especially severe on those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Director of the Academy of Sales, Samantha Lewis, knows from her own life experience that growing up in a challenging family environment makes it difficult for young people to build confidence and take the opportunities available to them. This often means them suffering long-term economic and social damage which, in turn, impacts on society as a whole. But given chance, many of these young people will the grab opportunities offered to them and thrive.
While unemployment figures are often discussed, the rise in overall employment masks the problem facing our young people. Of all those 16-24 year olds who were considered to be NEET only 44% were counted as unemployed, the rest considered to be either not looking for work, or not available for work, and are therefore potentially overlooked.
While Britain’s NEET population has generally been falling since the end of 2011, the number has edged higher in the past two quarters, and if the weak job market persists it seems likely that the number of NEETs will continue to rise. Although the percentage increase has been relatively small (around 0.01%), the problem of NEETs (and youth unemployment in general) is damaging the life prospects of those affected.
Many school leavers are ill-prepared and risk losing hope and drifting into apathy. Samantha says, “It’s our generation’s responsibility to give young adults a good start in their careers. There are so many pressures on the education system these days; schools are often so busy that they don’t have the time or resources to really prepare young people for work.”
This problem is often compounded by the lack of high quality apprenticeship roles, and it’s easy to see why, in lean economic times, employers might cut back on recruitment and training. But even in the present economic climate, forward thinking employers are looking to the future, investing in young people and growing their own talent rather than trying to ‘buy it in’. Home grown employees often have a better understanding of the company and a sense of loyalty that may be lacking in others.
The job market is set to remain very competitive for the foreseeable future, and it’s important to recognise that traditional work patterns have changed and the academic pathways that young people once relied on as stepping stones to career success are no longer as reliable. Employers need to invest in young people, to develop them as people in business and prepare them for the professional world.
The economy continues to change from industrial to service-driven or customer-facing industries, and the qualities employers are seeking is changing too. Soft skills such as the ability to communicate properly and work as part of a team, and perhaps most importantly an employee’s attitude towards work, are becoming increasingly important. The Academy of Sales has set itself apart from the competition with its philosophy of drawing recruits from pools of talent overlooked by others – looking beyond academic achievement to see the person. The trainers at the AoS are passionate about empowering people to reach their true potential. Sales is a career that is open to anyone with enough passion and enthusiasm.