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Youth unemployment levels in the UK remain stubbornly high, but the CIPD is tackling the issue with a new campaign designed to help young people break the vicious circle of “no experience, no job”.Supported by some of the UK’s leading employers, the institute’s Learning to Work initiative aims to generate a “step change” in the way organisations engage with young people to boost their job prospects.The campaign seeks to highlight the business case for recruiting young people, and encourage closer employer ties with schools and colleges to develop employability skills and offer more high-quality work experience placements. It also aims to challenge perceptions about hiring young people who may lack workplace experience, and encourage the adaptation of recruitment methods to become more youth-friendly, said Stephanie Bird, CIPD director of public policy.“We need a step change in the relationship and level of engagement between employers and young people,” she said. “But we also need to move beyond constant complaining about the shortcomings of ‘the youth of today’, to real, practical, sleeves-rolled-up engagement by employers to boost the employability and job prospects of young people.”Learning to Work is backed by organisations including Marks and Spencer, Deloitte, Nestlé, O2, Veolia and NHS Employers, and builds on CIPD guidance on internships, work experience and apprenticeships. The institute is using Learning to Work to emphasise the critical role that HR can play in boosting young people’s success in the labour market, and is calling on its membership to help young people with their transition into the world of work.“We know there is a gap between negative perceptions of today’s school and college leavers and the reality of the talents and capabilities they have to offer,” said Katerina Rüdiger, the CIPD’s skills policy adviser. She cited the CIPD’s “Steps ahead” mentoring programme in the West Midlands as an example of how HR professionals could help those with little experience of the labour market or recruitment process. The programme, which is coming to the end of its one-year pilot phase in Coventry and Warwickshire, links local HR professionals – who volunteer their time – with young unemployed people referred by Jobcentre Plus.Mentoring sessions include advice on interview skills, confidence building and CV writing. So far 65 mentees have gone on to find work, undertake an apprenticeship or participate in structured work experience, and plans are under way to extend the mentoring project nationwide. “People with experience of recruitment and management can help young people to improve the way they conduct themselves at interview, and avoid creating an impression that they have neither the skills nor the work ethic for the job,” Rüdiger added. Learning to Work is being supported by an advisory board of major private and public sector employers, alongside other leading organisations such as City & Guilds, the Prince’s Trust, the Education and Employers Taskforce and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).According to a research analysis published recently by the CIPD, the Education and Employers Taskforce and UKCES, the opportunity to clarify career aspirations through work experience meant that 16 to 18-year-olds were less likely to be NEET (not in education, employment or training), with two-thirds of students saying their placements had helped them both decide on a vocation and identify how to achieve that goal.“There need to be clear pathways for young people that provide a first point of employer contact,” said Learning to Work advisory board member Val Stevenson, HR director at Deloitte. Emma Wordsworth, HR director at Veolia Environmental Services, said her firm had already committed to providing 300 apprenticeships annually. “Our aim is to help fill the industry skills gap by encouraging more young people throughout our business and to provide them with the opportunity to take on real work challenges and gain vital site experience.”An action plan to support the campaign will be rolled out from September, ahead of the CIPD’s centenary celebrations in 2013.