Future Proofing the English regions

Grace Mehanna, Director Talent and Skills, Business in the Community, and Chris Jones, CEO, The City & Guilds Group explain why businesses across England must take action to secure their future workforces.

Though the full details are still yet to be ironed out, Britain’s exit from Europe could have a significant impact on the domestic UK labour market. Where are the skilled workers we need going to come from in the future?

A report by the Social Market Foundation in May 2016 shows that UK employers rely heavily on workers from Europe; non-UK EU workers currently make up 6.8% of the UK workforce.1

Already, some 46% of employers believe that that low levels of skills in the workforce are a threat to the UK’s labour market competitiveness2. The potential loss of EU workers' skills will further exacerbate skills shortages faced by businesses.

There is therefore an urgent need for businesses in the UK to take action to secure their future workforces by recruiting young people. But do they know how to best do that?

Opening up opportunities

By opening up opportunities for young people at a local level – whether that’s by inspiring young people through careers and workplace programmes, or by opening up new opportunities through apprenticeships – employers can access a more diverse future talent pool, combat skills shortages, and revitalise industries.

But it’s not the case. A recent EY report3 has shown that despite increasing employment levels, youth unemployment remains disproportionately high in many areas of the country. Take what’s happening in Greater Manchester. It’s the largest employment hub outside the South East, with 105,000 businesses employing 1.2m people – but youth employment remains stubbornly high at 16.7% for 16-24 year olds,  nearly triple the overall unemployment rate for the area.

Businesses are missing a trick by not taking a more strategic approach to recruiting and developing young people. To supply the local labour market with the keys skills it needs, employers in areas like Manchester need to take a longer term approach to inspiring, hiring and growing the future workforce.

That means businesses connecting their own future workforce planning with how young people want their careers to progress, from education onwards, and being clear about what they can offer them.

Mobilising businesses

The introduction of the apprenticeship levy and devolution of funding to employers at a local level gives businesses the new mechanisms they need to take action at a local level.

But still, too many solutions focus on changing young people and the education system, rather than on the structural barriers to employment. From unnecessary work experience requirements to a lack of transparency around the recruitment process, young people face unfair hurdles in their pathway to employment. By breaking down these barriers, businesses can create the strong local skilled labour supply needed for future growth.

To help businesses to identify and break down these barriers, we’ve created a Youth Employment Framework, based on the three areas of inspire, hire and grow; which shows employers how they can support and develop young people throughout their transition to employment and beyond.

From providing feedback to all interviewed candidates to making sure inductions are more youth friendly, these are some of the key practical steps employers can take.

It’s time to bring businesses into the youth employment conversation to provide our economy with the future skills it needs to continue to thrive.

That's why Business in the Community and the City & Guilds Group will bring together businesses in a series of Future Proof Assemblies in areas across England to promote our framework to businesses at a regional level.

We’ll work with local businesses and stakeholders to create a Future Proof blueprint for each region to identifies the key local challenges around employing young people and makes practical recommendations on how employers can overcome them.

A future proofed region means: a local skilled workforce prepared to meet the economic needs of the future, a seamless transition from school to work for all young people, and businesses engaged in every step of a young person's journey to employment. The time to act is now.

Join us on October 13 in Greater Manchester for the first Future Proof Assembly and help create the Future Proof blueprint for this region.

1. The Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/ac4f8ace-1cf6-11e6-b286-cddde55ca122

2. Most recent CBI Employers Survey, December 2015. http://news.cbi.org.uk/news/job-creation-up-but-skills-shortages-rising-labour-costs-start-to-bite-cbi-accenture-survey/the-path-ahead/

3. EY report: http://www.ey.com/UK/en/Issues/Business-environment/Financial-markets-and-economy/Youth-unemployment-in-the-UK