Young people increasingly shut out of first jobs

A growing number of young people are being shut out of entry-level jobs because they do not have the right skills to move from education to work, a report warns.

More than 450,000 young people have been unable to make the transition from learning into work as employers have increasingly changed what it is they look for when hiring, with many under-25s in the UK unable to match the skills needed, according to a new study.

The report from the Work Foundation argues that as jobs have moved from production to service-led roles over the past decade, employers increasingly require “softer” skills such as good communication or working as part of a team more than technical ability.

The think tank said many young people are finding it hard to get their foot on the career ladder, because the education system has not adapted to reflect the changes and their skill sets are not in demand.

The report comes ahead of official “Neet” (not in education, employment or training) figures, which on Wednesday are likely to show a substantial number of young people are “falling through the gaps”.

Almost half a million youngsters in England have no experience of sustained paid employment beyond casual and holiday work, said the think tank.

Dr Paul Sissons, the report’s author, said: “The labour market has changed considerably over the past few decades. First jobs are now less likely to be in manufacturing and more likely to be in the service sector where skills such as communication, team working and customer service are important.

“For young people without the soft skills needed to access work in these growing sectors, finding employment has become increasingly difficult.

“A period of worklessness while young can detrimentally impact peoples’ careers over the longer term. More needs to be done to support young people at this crucial point of transition, and local service provision must be geared up to address this aim.

“This requires consistent support and effective co-ordination of services across local government, schools, employers and the third sector to prevent more young people from falling through the gaps in public provision.”

The report raises concerns about recent changes to careers advice and guidance services, which have divided responsibility for support between schools and the new service.

“This leaves potential gaps around 16-18 year olds and there is a real danger that the changes will leave some young people with insufficient and inconsistent support when they need it most,” the report said.

Paul Champion

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