13 February 2015
Young people are facing a postcode lottery in gaining work experience – with some parts of the UK twice as likely to offer work experience as others.
A survey of 18,000 businesses revealed one in five say nothing will persuade them to offer work experience, yet two in three say experience is vital in hiring new staff.
The survey was carried out by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, a government-funded organisation.
“Young people are already facing increasingly difficult conditions finding their way into the workplace, and the news that these factors can be further compounded based simply on location is disheartening,” said Michael Davis, the chief executive of UKCES.
“Contact with the world of work should be a component of all young people’s educational experience, and all schools and colleges should have links with at least one local business.
“That’s not altruism – it’s essential if we’re to create the skilled workers all business need to survive and thrive.”
The latest research is in a long line of evidence reflecting the worsening youth employment crisis. Government figures show that around 40% of the UK’s 1.9 million unemployed people are aged under 25. While unemployment levels are falling, unemployment for young workers remains shockingly high.
764,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed in September to November 2014, up 30,000 on the previous quarter. The unemployment rate (the proportion of the economically active population who are unemployed) for 16-24 year olds was 16.9%, up 0.9 percentage points from the previous quarter.
While Employment Minister Esther McVey’s solution to youth unemployment is to urge young people to keep “knocking on doors”, the jobs and the opportunities to gain experience are simply not there.
And the opportunities that do exist are increasingly open only to a privileged few; underlying the issue is the fact that “work experience” is often a byword for unpaid labour. Unpaid internships number 22,000 university graduates at any one time, according to the Sutton Trust, charity and think tank which aims to improve social mobility. However, the average cost of an internship to the intern is £926 a week in London (excl. transport), which works out at £5,556 for a six month internship – a price that only the rich can afford. Indeed, a poll by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission found that 74% of Britons thought a young person in their family would not be able to afford to undertake one.