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Employers determined to support young people despite many predicting a downturn in apprenticeship places

  • Over three-quarters of businesses in the UK say employers have a responsibility to ensure school leavers do not become a lost generation
  • 77% of business leaders say employers should now be looking to increase apprenticeships for young people, though 29% expect their organisation to reduce the number of apprenticeship places available for school and college leavers

Britain’s economic rebuild must tackle a loss of apprenticeships, work experience places, and entry level roles, warn employers.

In the week schools return, business leaders say cuts in apprenticeships and work experience places due to Covid-19, and continuing economic uncertainty threaten young people’s job prospects, according to new research released today.

Three in ten business leaders in the UK expect a reduction in apprenticeships (29%), work experience opportunities (30%) and entry level roles (30%) for school and college leavers in their organisations in the current environment.

The poll of 250 senior business leaders, by Savanta ComRes for the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) comes as the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, recently announced a package of measures designed to support jobs for young people, including £3.7bn to boost traineeships, skills and apprenticeships.

With the survey also revealing strong commitment and determination from business leaders to support young people and advice on what they can do to improve their job prospects in the post-pandemic environment, such support from Government will be essential to turn intent into reality.

Nearly four in five business leaders (77%) say employers should now be looking to increase apprenticeship places for young people.

Seventy-seven per cent say employers have a responsibility to ensure young people now leaving school do not become a lost generation, with 76 per cent saying there is an increased need for employers to support young people entering into the world of work.

More than a third (35%) of business leaders, from some of the UK’s largest employers, say continued economic uncertainty is a challenge for their organisation’s recruitment of school and college leavers.

More than four in five (82%) believe it is important for employers to work with young people in schools and colleges to inspire and inform them about the world of work.  

A third (32%) of these businesses also say the uncertainty over the process for awarding GCSE and A level grades - making it difficult to establish achievement levels - is a challenge for their organisation’s recruitment of young people. A third (33%) also said their priority of bringing back furloughed employees would challenge their recruitment of young people.

The survey comes after a poll of 5,000 teachers by Teacher Tapp for CEC showed that 74 per cent of teachers say employability skills are now the most important way to improve pupils’ career prospects, compared to 62% who say it is good academic grades.

Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive, Institute of Student Employers said:

“The government’s recent Summer Statement announcement to kickstart more jobs for young people through opportunities like traineeships, work placements and apprenticeships is a welcome boost.

“This poll confirms that the ultimate test of success will come down to the resilience of our economy combined with the willingness of employers to recognise the value of early talent and invest in youth skills.

“Over recent years, employers have stepped up to support schools and colleges at a local level and on a national scale. Never has that role been more important than now and business leaders are continuing to demonstrate their clear determination to continue that vital work.”

John Yarham, Interim CEO of The Careers & Enterprise Company said:

“This survey shows just how vital Government support and investment will be, if we are to match the clear belief of business leaders in the need to support young people into decisive action to provide job opportunities. That backing will pivotal in turning intent into reality.

“The coronavirus crisis has created significant challenges and uncertainty for employers. One effect of that is likely to be a particularly heavy impact on young people seeking to start their career journey.

“Despite the pressures, our work is being backed by over 200 leading ‘Cornerstone Employers’ and their commitment to engage young people in schools and colleges to inspire and prepare the next generation for the world of work.  These include BAE Systems and their recruitment of 800 apprentices, and Morgan Sindall and its trailblazing virtual work experience programme for aspiring civil engineers”

One company that has already committed to the recruitment of young people is BAE Systems who, in June, announced it would press ahead with plans to hire 800 apprentices into its business this year.  

Peter Caney, Head of Early Careers and Skills, BAE Systems said: 

“BAE Systems has a clear and ongoing commitment to connect with and support young people in our communities and that is why, despite the pandemic, we are continuing with our plans to hire a record number of apprentices this year. 

“It is not only important for the future of our business that we bring new talent to work alongside and learn from our senior engineers and leaders but it is also important for the economy, particularly in these challenging times.”

The survey in numbers:

What challenges or constraints do business leaders in the UK foresee for the recruitment or work placement of schools and college leavers in their organisation in the current environment?

  • 35% say continuing economic uncertainty
  • 33% say the priority of bringing back furloughed employees
  • 32% say uncertainty over the process for awarding GCSE and A level grades making it difficult to establish their achievement levels
  • 30% say the reduction in the number of work experience opportunities available for school and college leavers
  • 30% say lack of demand for entry level employees
  • 29% say the reduction in the number of apprenticeship places available for school and college leavers
  • 29% say barriers to induction/ training and learning business culture and values in a remote working environment.

What do business leaders in the UK say employers should be doing to support young people and improve their employment prospects during the Covid-19 crisis?

  • 82% believe it’s important for employers to work with schools and colleges to inspire and inform young people about the world of work
  • 79% say working with schools and colleges should be an important part of the businesses’ CSR programme
  • 77% believe employers have a responsibility to ensure young people leaving school in the current environment do not become a lost generation
  • 77% say employers should now be looking to increase apprenticeship places for young people
  • 76% say there is now an increased need for employers to support young people entering into the world of work.

What actions do business leaders in the UK believe young people should take to improve their employment prospects?

  • 90% say update and tailor their CV according to the job they are interested in
  • 88% say contact employers to ask for careers advice relevant to their sector of interest
  • 88% say develop skills and knowledge through on-line learning and courses
  • 88% say undertake work experience or internships
  • 84% say undertake volunteering to develop skills and demonstrate character.