Young UK workers lack get up and go to beat foreigners to jobs, employment minister warns
By Becky Barrow
23:11, 16 April 2012
10:23, 17 April 2012
Chris Grayling said British-born youngsters simply could not trump the experience of older foreign workers flocking to the UK
Many young British workers lack the ‘get up and go’ of foreign-born rivals who regularly beat them in job interviews, the employment minister warned yesterday.
Chris Grayling said British-born youngsters simply could not trump the experience of older foreign workers flocking to the UK.
The ‘deep-rooted problem’ meant employers ‘very often’ gave jobs to foreigners.
Business lobby groups warned yesterday that young people were being failed by an education system that left them unprepared for the world of work.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that the number of British-born workers fell by 208,000 last year. In contrast, the number of foreign-born workers jumped by 212,000.
Questioned about these figures yesterday, Mr Grayling said those leaving school, college or university ‘without experience’ faced a challenge.
‘You’ve got these young people who are up against somebody who may be five or six years older, who has had the get up and go to cross a continent, to come to the UK,’ he said.
‘[They are] up against somebody who has no previous experience and has just left school or college here.
‘And employers are very often giving that older person the chance, rather than that young inexperienced person.’
The number of unemployed 16- to 24-year-olds has hit 1.04million, although this includes 311,000 in full-time education. Phil McCabe, of the Forum of Private Business lobby group, said: ‘Unfortunately, it is a sad indictment of the UK’s education system that it is not producing the right level of work-ready young people.’
It was not just basic skills such as literacy and numeracy that many struggled with, but also their attitudes, he added.
‘They include things such as an unwillingness to do certain tasks deemed to be too menial,’ said Mr McCabe. ‘It is as if some people with a degree think they are too important to start at the bottom.’
Numb to the pain: A demonstrator holds a placard outside the Total Lindsey refinery, in Lincolnshire, in protest against the use of foreign workers
A recent poll of some of Britain’s biggest businesses, such as HSBC, Santander, KPMG and Procter & Gamble, found widespread despair with the quality of potential new recruits.
It said many young people turned up for interviews without ‘vital employability skills’ such as punctuality and a ‘general can-do’ attitude.
The research, by the charity Young Enterprise, attacked the Government’s ‘alarmingly narrow’ focus on academic skills.
John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘Companies need employees with the right mix of skills to grow their businesses.
‘For many firms, that means employing non-UK workers. Almost two-thirds of businesses tell us they are unable to find the skilled workers they need in the UK.
‘Developing the capability of our future workforce must be a priority.
‘Too many young people have been failed by the education system and left unable to compete with non-UK workers who often have the skills businesses need.’
Mr Grayling dismissed suggestions that young people were ‘unemployable’, saying: ‘What they are facing is a huge challenge in the employment market where they are up against people with more experience.’
A controversial scheme allowing young people to keep their benefits while doing work experience ‘is one part of trying to solve the problem’.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the think-tank Migration Watch, said: ‘Profits are not everything.
‘Employers have an obligation to help our own young people who would otherwise be condemned to a life on benefits.’
Asked last year about a branch of the sandwich chain Pret A Manger appearing to be staffed entirely by foreigners, Mr Grayling said it was ‘unacceptable’.