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Tackling urgent skills requirements of business and young people

Mark Fawcett

The question of whether the UK is developing a workforce that has the appropriate skills and attitudes to meet the demands of businesses now and in the future is likely to be in the news over the coming weeks in connection with the ongoing discussions about access to talent post-Brexit. As well as with the annual release of GCSE and A-level results and debates about the pros and cons of university education versus other forms of training. Contributor Mark Fawcett, Founder and Chief Executive – We are Futures.

Most businesses understand that they have a role to play in developing the talents and skills of young people. But not all businesses truly appreciate the strategic importance of young people to them right now and the urgency of engaging with them in order to meet their own business objectives as well as the development needs of young people themselves.

Companies and other organisations still aren’t as proactive or as effective as they should be in engaging with the young people who represent not only their potential workforce but also future customers.

Poorly conceived and targeted youth engagement activities by businesses in the UK are, at best, missing precious opportunities to help develop the talent and skills of our young people and prepare them appropriately for the world of work. At worst, businesses are utterly failing to help address the skills gap before it becomes a crisis, or to listen to young people themselves about the kind of help they want and need from business right now.

It can be encouraging and uplifting to see how willing and able young people are to engage with the business world when organisations connect with them in a way that taps into their values, interests and hopes for themselves and the wider world. But successful efforts at youth engagement are patchy and the playing field is very far from level for the majority of young people anxious about how they are to achieve rewarding and fulfilling careers.

A lack of joined-up thinking and cooperation among the relevant agencies and within individual businesses means that British industry understands least well and is least connected with precisely the group on which it’s future most depends and that most needs those connections.

 This is particularly true of those in the 16-22 age group, the youngest of which will be getting their GCSE and A-level results this month and potentially entering the job market in September. On Tuesday 11 September We are Futures will be publishing the results of a major piece of research it is currently completing into the needs, opinions, concerns and ambitions of 16-22-year-olds in the UK and the implications for business.

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