Anne Nisbet: We must create pathways for young people into work

One of the best ways to help disadvantaged young people is to provide them with pathways into long-term work, argues Anne Nisbet

A difficult mountain pathway; Jack Cain

Disadvantaged young people face many challenges when it comes to finding work and getting a firm footing on the career ladder.

Charities, businesses, and local government must work together to create pathways for these young people into work. Employment and training, we believe, is the best way to transform the life chances of young people.

Anne Nisbet: The school-workplace transition is difficult for many young people

The transition from school to work is problematic for many young people who are economically and socially disadvantaged. They face various, and often combined, challenges including chaotic home lives, mental health problems, household debt, poor basic education and the lack of any work experience.

Is it any wonder that, against this backdrop, many young people find getting and keeping a job a herculean task?

The scale of this problem is clearly reflected in the figures. According to the ONS, for January to March 2018, the UK’s youth unemployment rate stood at almost 12%, and 808,000 young people aged 16 to 24 years were not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Yet, we strongly believe that employment and training are the best and most sustainable ways to transform young people’s lives.

Anne Nisbet: The difficulties that young people face are interconnected

It is much more difficult to solve other problems, such as the risk of homelessness and substance dependency, without providing these disadvantaged young people with training and employment first. Without the regularity of a job and income, there is substantial risk of these young people falling into the same traps as their parents, and remaining in a cycle of poverty their whole lives.

“Work is the most effective route out of poverty, but for far too long, in some of Britain’s poorest communities worklessness has been passed from generation to generation like a family business,” according to the Centre for Social Justice.

It is this entrenched inter-generational problem that businesses have a duty to help tackle. Poverty, debt and a lack of work skills drives high rates of other social issues too, which in turn have a knock-on effect to UK productivity and business profits.

Access to the skills necessary to gain a job is the start. Employment solves social problems, provides a support structure, regularity and, of course, an income. But the best thing is that getting these young people into employment also helps businesses as well.

Anne Nisbet: Businesses are always on the lookout for talent

As family business owners, we understand the difficulty of finding talent, especially outside of London.

According to analysis by the Centre for Cities, “cities [in the UK] have a significantly higher share of low-skilled residents compared to cities in most other European countries, with 34 per cent of the urban population having not achieved five good GCSEs.” In fact, 25 out of 63 UK cities studied by the Centre for Cities are in the top 25 percent in Europe for their share of low-skilled residents.

But, despite these gloomy figures, businesses need to recognise that there is often a pool of incredible talent on their own doorstep.

In our local schools, there are thousands of high-potential young people who desperately want to change their lives, but they are often closed out of the workforce because of their lack of qualifications. Businesses need to see past this, and create their own programmes to support these people.

Anne Nisbet: Businesses must provide young people with training opportunities

We have tried to support this process through our own business and family foundation.

For example, at Nisbets we run a number of introduction days, where we invite students from local schools in disadvantaged areas into the workplace to show them what it is like to work in a business. Our hope is these people chose to join one of our small apprenticeship schemes in the future, which seek to provide young people with a pathway into work.

Other companies have also embraced the challenge and are committed to offering similar support. For example, another family business and leading construction firm, Wates, provides high-quality training and employment opportunities for disadvantaged young people. Through their award-winning programme, Reshaping Tomorrow, the company has trained more than 1,000 young jobseekers.

Helping to support young people into work need not be a challenge for any business

— Anne Nisbet

Helping to support young people into work need not be a challenge for any business. Many companies find that partnering with an organisation, such as The Prince’s Trust or local schools and charities, can give them the motivation and ideas they need to get a support strategy off the ground.

If business can take the first step with the help of experienced charities and government, together we could not only secure motivated, energetic young workers, but help shape the kind of future we all want for our communities and society.