The Missing Million: An apprentice’s perspective
18 October 2011
On Wednesday, 5 October The Work Foundation hosted an event to discuss the youth employment challenge currently facing the UK, the findings of which will directly shape our new research project, 'The Missing Million’ which begins next year. The Missing Million is a two year, solutions-focused project with the aim of not only increasing the employment prospects of young people in this country, but business, society and the wider economy alike. With last week’s decidedly gloomy labour market statistics showing the number of unemployed 16-24 year olds rising to 991,000, finding solutions to the issue is crucial to the future economic success of the UK.
We were delighted to play host to an expert panel of speakers, which included Ian Brinkley (centre director, The Work Foundation). Julie Hutchinson (director of employment and skills, East London Business Alliance), Baroness Steadman-Scott (chief executive, Tomorrow's People) and Pat Russell (deputy director, young people and employment division, Department for Work and Pensions) Furthermore, I had the (somewhat daunting) privilege of participating in this panel, speaking about my experience of undertaking an apprenticeship, why I chose it instead of going to university, and the strengths and failures of apprenticeship schemes.
Despite a great deal of pressure from my school, I decided that I would prefer to gain vocational skills that could be applied in the workplace, rather than study for a degree at university. After completing my A levels I juggled three part time jobs whilst I looked for a role in which I could develop and take pride in my success. After a time, I felt quite disheartened. That was until someone recommended I apply for an apprenticeship with Landmark Training, who put me forward for roles that I was suitable for, but that I would have not have had the opportunity to apply for otherwise.
Since 9 May 2011 I have been working as an apprentice at The Work Foundation. In my role, I have acquired everything from basic administrative skills by supporting the Partnership team, to having the opportunity to organise external and internal events- and I have truly enjoyed every second of it. For me this route has been a great success because I have learnt invaluable skills, experienced first-hand how an office works and what behaviours are expected of me, and have developed interests in parts of the organisation I may never have discovered. All the while, I am also working towards a qualification.
That is not to say all apprenticeship schemes are flawless. Like everything, there is room for improvement; for example, I believe that apprenticeship schemes and other alternatives to university should be advertised in schools to young people when the time comes to make these all-important decisions. Secondly, due to new legislation, funding for over nineteen year olds has been cut in half. This means that the government would only pay for half of the training costs for someone over nineteen years old and the business would have to stump up the remaining amount. Finally, I believe that businesses need to be more open to taking on apprentices and better understand what they can offer employers in terms of skills. If the future success of the UK economy rests on the shoulders of younger generations, the private sector needs to make the opportunities for them.
In the long term, we need to think about how we prepare young people for making decisions about their working lives. The leap from education and employment is daunting, especially for my generation with the employment obstacles they face. Preparing children in the early years of secondary school could be one way of doing this. Another could be simply having conversations with your children. Either way, we need to make sure our young people are as prepared as they can be to face the challenges The Missing Million seeks to tackle.