Author: By Natasha Adams, Chief People Officer, Tesco.
Like the CIPD, at Tesco we believe in supporting young people to build meaningful futures. A whole generation is currently grappling with the disruption that COVID-19 has caused to education and jobs. And many are entering an unusually volatile jobs market, one that is disproportionately tough on young people.
In light of this, we recently supported research conducted by the Social Market Foundation which found that a significant number of young people feel pessimistic about their future. They are discounting themselves from opportunities before applying for them and this ‘outlook inequality’ is stopping thousands from going after their career goals. In fact, the data shows young people are less optimistic now than in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008.
We’re supporting the Million Chances campaign because it closely aligns with our aim to make sure that this does not continue. We must not allow a two-tier system to emerge where some young people are equipped with the skills and confidence to get on in life but others are left behind. Employers like us need to make sure the odds don’t stay stacked against them. But how?
We’ve committed to help over 45,000 young people jumpstart their careers this year. One way we’re doing this is through pre-employability programmes. Partnering with The Prince’s Trust, we’re offering these programmes to school children and helping them build employability skills and confidence. We have an ambition to reach a further 200,000 young people most in need over the next five years.
Once young people are ready to step onto the career ladder, they need opportunities – whoever they are and whatever their background. Whether they’re a school leaver or a graduate, we’re creating thousands of potential opportunities for young people through the Government Kickstart scheme, apprenticeships, graduate programmes, Internships, and roles across our business.
Our research found that three in five young people from lower income households think their life goals are unachievable. They report lower levels of optimism and feel less equipped to compete in the job market. The Kickstart scheme is for 16-24-year olds that are claiming Universal credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. Our participation in the scheme has already boosted the skills and confidence of over 900 young people.
Tommy McCarthy Davis, 19, took part in our scheme and said: “The Kickstart scheme gave me the confidence to move forward and to understand dealing with customers and working in a busy environment in retail…I’ve been able to flourish inside a workplace where I felt comfortable and had support all around me.” Since completing the scheme Tommy’s gone on to become a Tesco delivery driver, a role he loves and feels fits in with his role as a carer too.
Our graduate programmes give young people leaving university a breadth of business experience, or the opportunity to specialise in finance or technology. Shizelle Mguni, 23, has recently joined our technology programme, specialising in cyber. She said: “This graduate role means a lot to me because I don’t feel like anyone else was willing to give me that experience or give me that opportunity apart from Tesco. I feel more optimistic about my future now.”
Our research shows many young people are put off applying for opportunities because they simply didn’t think they’d fit in. When they can see someone from a similar background in a role, they’re more likely to believe they can do the same. They need to see it to believe it, and it’s our responsibility to make that happen for them.
That’s why we’ve also challenged ourselves to build our employment programmes in a way that is truly inclusive. Retail is uniquely placed, as a major employer in thousands of communities across the UK, to offer people from all backgrounds career opportunities. Diversity and inclusion need to be embedded in everything a business does and we want our workforce to reflect the diverse customer base we serve.
We recently launched a new Business Diversity Internship, which gives students from ethnic minority, disabled, LGBTQ+ and socially or economically disadvantaged backgrounds 10 weeks of paid work experience in key areas of our business. Successful interns will be offered a permanent role on our Business Graduate Programme.
If we want to overcome ‘outlook inequality’ and attract young people from all backgrounds, employers need to build inclusive workplaces, led by inclusive leaders and role models. We are on a journey to truly achieving this and remain committed to doing the work to make it a reality at Tesco.
Young people’s employment prospects and aspirations have been hit hard and for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, it’s harder still. Employers like us must rise to the challenge to support the next generation to achieve their potential. One chance can go a long way.
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