Recently I’ve watched my daughters and their friends looking for jobs, grad schemes, changing jobs and scouring websites and Linked In looking for opportunities for work. A chance to put their new skills and knowledge to good use in the world, an opportunity to shine in the workplace, a chance to fulfil some of that potential they were always told they had.
Despite me being what you may call a careers ‘expert’ (or certainly very knowledgeable in the world of careers education and development) I’m also a parent and as such I tried to offer support from a distance, not be interfering and also to let them know I was there if needed – even suggesting some of the tools in The Ladder as useful ways to boost their interview / CV / self-reflection skills.
I was frustrated on their behalf as time after time their efforts were not rewarded – and in many cases, not even answered – despite putting their heart and souls into long and complex application forms and online HR tools which seemed to be designed as a catch-all for the company and an absolute pain for the young person completing them.
It struck me that this is another way inequality is perpetuated – yes, I understand that companies are looking for the ‘best and brightest minds’ for their organisations and that they have to find ways of filtering them – but my daughters went to Durham Uni and have friends who went to private schools and had scholarship opportunities and loads of work experiences, what if you’re a talented ambitions young person who didn’t have those advantages growing up? To use a ladder analogy, you’re at least six steps below others with advantages – if you can even find the ladder in the first place.
Schools, Colleges and Universities can only do so much when it comes to preparing young people for workplaces of all kinds, and whilst there is a lot of work to do in education to prepare young people better – it’s not the only job of schools, and it’s not schools that only need to work on this – there needs to be more ‘give’ from employers with regard to recruitment and development for young people in their workforce.
Let’s see some changes in this area to benefit the company, equality and especially the futures of young people themselves.
- Let’s get rid of staid, standard and dull CVs. (see also this blog);
- Let’s give some thought to recruitment tools that prioritise skills and personality and not just grades and work experiences; – the classic catch22 that says we need work experience but to get work experience you need to have had some work experience – for which a week in Year 10 just isn’t sufficient);
- Let’s see some innovation in finding young people’s skills – consider their Social Media prowess: TikTok / Instagram etc stories and reels, let’s look at their ability to have overcome difficulties;
- Let’s see some acknowledgement that Covid and Brexit have changed the landscape of choice, confidence and opportunities for young people and start to become dealers in hope for them (which extends to opening up different chances to excel, paid internships / work experience and the chances to excel in different ways that the traditional);
- Let’s show that we care about their life experiences, their parents choices and opportunities should not reflect the opportunities they are offered – let’s see beyond what is written on paper or shown us in person and design some recruitment tools that allow everyone – regardless of background, ability and skill level – to shine in some way during the recruitment process;
- Let’s continue to offer flexible working (where relevant) to enable choices about work / life balance and cost of living, energy, commuting and the environment to be made in conjunction with the employer.
It really is time for employers to look differently at the way they recruit young people – if they truly do want the best and most creative person for the role, that’s not going to come from using the same recruitment tools and practices they’ve used for years (whether in the form of a snazzy internet system or paper-based).
Let’s start a conversation about how to trulyopen doors to employment and opportunity to all young people through flexible recruitment practices, not just the same old systems that bring applications from the same old group of people with the same old school ties.
Employers need to start doing more to meet young people half way.
There are ideas in The Ladder to help schools and employers support young people.
LAUNCH is a great way to support your students towards more confidence in their futures – online or in person.
National Careers Week are all about supporting young people and employers to provide more opportuniy to more people more often.