Learning to work youth engagement map

The Learning to Work programme is led by the CIPD to promote the role of employers in reducing youth unemployment. The CIPD's purpose is to champion better work and working lives, which starts with young people being able to access the labour market.

The overall aim of the programme is to promote the business case for investing in the future workforce. We encourage HR professionals to offer a wide range of access routes into their organisations and ensure their recruitment and management practices are youth-friendly. We also promote direct contact with young people via two youth volunteering programmes, Steps Ahead Mentoring and Inspiring the Future.

The CIPD has identified seven key focal points to help encourage greater levels of engagement with young people and secure future talent pipelines. These are Engage, Prepare, Experience, Recruit, Invest and Measure, which are all underpinned by the Business Case. We have provided guidance as to the sorts of activities you/your organisation could be doing under each of these headings to make a real difference.

Recognise and promote the business case for supporting young people during the transition from education to work.

Over 900,000 young people aged from 16 to 24 are unemployed in the UK. The ratio of youth unemployment is far higher than adult unemployment and the gap is not decreasing as the economic picture improves.

The business case for youth engagement is clear - organisations need to engage with young people to sustain their long-term competitiveness in a fast-paced, global economy. This is particularly important in the context of an ageing workforce where knowledge transfer is crucial. Helping young people in their transition from education to work is not just an issue of corporate responsibility, it is key to business success.

Our research suggests that the majority (more than 7 in 10) of employers agree that there is a business case for employing young people. We uncovered five key business imperatives that make young people a vital workforce component. These are:

  • building your talent pipeline
  • young people’s unique skills, attitudes and motivation
  • workforce diversity, providing different perspectives, skills and values boosted reputation as an employer of choice
  • investing in young people to grow your own workforce is more cost-effective than trying to buy in skills and talent later.

Read The Business Case for Employer Investment in Young People to explore the key reasons for investment in more detail.


A good place to start is your immediate team and senior colleagues, do they recognise the business case and is your organisation doing all it can to support young people? If the answer is no then consider how you can make the case to them. Our Business Case is a good starting point but there are also great examples of why this is important and what other organisations are doing throughout the reports and guides published as part of the Learning to Work programme. If you have a particularly hard sell, then think about encouraging them to meet some young people (via Inspiring the Future), or highlight examples of what others are doing in the space.

Your organisation

Your organisation may be one of the many across the UK that already recognise that supporting young people is a key business issue. The next step is to ensure you are putting this goodwill into practice - ideas for how you can do this are outlined in the other key areas of our youth engagement map.

The most obvious starting point is recruitment and creating access routes for young people, such as Apprenticeship programmes. However, your business can support young people at an earlier stage via engaging with schools, helping prepare young people and providing work experience opportunities. Continuing to invest in young employees once they join your organisation is also key to ensuring they are equipped for success. Finally, measuring the impact of your youth engagement programmes will help to highlight the value and returns on your workforce investment to employees and investors.

If your organisation is already doing great things in this space then we want to hear from you. We’re always looking for ways to highlight best practice and weave real life case studies into our research and guidance. If you would like to get in touch please contact us at LearningtoWork@cipd.co.uk

An Award for Best Youth Initiative is also included in our annual People Management Awards.

Develop links with local schools, colleges and Universities to help bridge gaps between education and business and reach out to new talent pools.

One way that employers can help young people transition successfully from education to work is to engage with local schools and colleges. Young adults who encountered four or more employers while at school are, on average, 20 per cent less likely to be NEET (not in full time education, employment or training), earn 18 per cent more when in full-time work and are much more confident that their early careers are going in the right direction than their comparable peers who had low levels of employer contact while at school.

Reaching out to local schools and colleges can also help with your own recruitment and talent attraction. Young people will gain insight into your industry and might be inspired to make educational choices that will help set them up for a future career with your organisation.

There are numerous ways that you could connect with schools and colleges in your area. However, it’s important to bear in mind that in some areas schools may get bombarded with requests from local businesses wanting to work with them. Unfortunately not all schools will have the resource available to manage these requests which is why we recommend going through established channels which should provide an easy route for engagement.

Read The Opportunity-Information Gap [link] to find out why employer engagement is crucial.


Volunteer to deliver careers insight talks [http://www.inspiringthefuture.org/?s=volunteers] via the Inspiring the Future initiative. Over 75 per cent of state schools in England are already signed up to the free programme, which provides schools with a bank of volunteers they can call upon to deliver short talks to students about different career options.

You could also consider becoming a school Governor [http://inspiringgovernance.org/]. By influencing the governance of schools, businesses can forge important links with the world of education, ensuring that the future workforce is equipped with the skills needed for success. You will also benefit from the skills gained by taking on a strategic leadership role, which can be brought back to your organisation.

Your organisation

Inspiring the Future also provides unique links for larger employers to encourage your whole workforce to become involved. To find out more about this option please email inspiring@cipd.co.uk

You could also explore opportunities for collaborating with local Further Education Colleges - with their support your business might be able to introduce an Apprenticeship programme.

Use your expertise to help prepare young people for the world of work and the recruitment process, so they are equipped with the key employability skills you look for.

Our research reveals a clear mismatch between employers’ expectations of young people during the recruitment process and young people’s understanding of what is expected of them. A key issue reported by employers is that many young people seem to be unsure about how to market themselves. They don’t know how to write a CV that highlights their best qualities and they struggle to explain their experience during interviews.

This is hindering young people’s access to the labour market and contributing to high rates of youth unemployment. It is also causing a ticking time bomb of skills shortages for UK businesses, which are unwittingly cutting themselves off from a diverse pool of talent.

However, HR professionals, who often hold responsibility for the recruitment of new staff, hold the key to addressing this mismatch. The advice you could provide to a young person around basic employability skills such as CV writing, interview technique and job search could make a huge difference to a young person’s future prospects and ultimately help make your recruitment processes run more smoothly.

Read Employers are from Mars, young people are from Venus to find out more about some of the difficulties young people face when looking for work.


Volunteer as a Steps Ahead Mentor to provide six one to one mentoring sessions for a young jobseeker. Not only will you be helping a young person gain the skills they need to find employment but it also provides an opportunity for you to develop your own mentoring and coaching skills.

You can also volunteer to deliver one off CV and interview advice sessions via the HR option of the Inspiring the Future initiative.

Another simple way you could help a young person starting out on their journey into work is to signpost them to our guide, Employment Top Tips from the People Who Recruit. The guide, based on advice from employers and young people, provides loads of helpful advice on job search, applications and interviews.

Your organisation

Ensure your organisation or industry is incorporated into Plotr, an excellent online resource for young people thinking about their future career. We are also encouraging larger organisations to get your whole HR team to sign up as Steps Ahead Mentors. To find out more and arrange a follow up meeting please email mentoring@cipd.co.uk

Provide high quality work experience and volunteering opportunities that will give young people the insight and skills they need to work in your industry.

Employers tell us that they often look for candidates with experience, even for relatively junior or entry level roles. This can lead to vicious ‘no experience, no job’ cycle for young people who struggle to find the opportunities they need.

On a more positive note, work experience is one of the most popular ways for employers to engage with young people. CIPD research found that the majority of those that offer work experience placements (85 per cent) use these as a recruitment channel and often offer employment opportunities to young people afterwards. There are also other additional benefits to offering opportunities such as helping businesses to engage with the local community, which can also lead to increased brand loyalty and profile. The quality of opportunities on offer is also important, so that the young person can experience and develop the skills you require, whilst also gaining a true sense of the workplace.

As well as offering traditional ‘work experience’ placement, which normally only last for short period (two-weeks) and are often for younger school or college aged students (although older people can still benefit), there are other ways that employers can provide opportunities for young people to gain crucial experience. This includes internships, which tend to last for longer and are usually for graduates or undergraduates (who should be paid). Internships often provide a solid opportunity for a young person to develop their skills and provide a route for recruitment into a permanent position.

Volunteering is also an excellent way for young people to gain experience and vital skills such as team work, communication and leadership. An increasing number of employers are starting to recognise the value of youth social action initiatives and are either setting up or supporting projects in their local community that encourage young people to volunteer.

Read Making Work Experience Work, Top Tips for Employers and our Work Experience Placements that Work guide to find out how you can implement high quality work experience placements. For internships read Internships that work and to find out about examples of organisations supporting volunteering initiatives read Youth social action and transitions into work: what role for employers?


Do you or your team offer work experience opportunities? If not, then volunteering to take one on, even if it’s just once a year, should be your first course of action. If you don’t already have established links with schools in your area then you may need to be proactive and reach out to local education providers – avoid recruiting by ‘who you know’ alone.

Where possible, encourage colleagues and line managers throughout the business to provide opportunities for young people to gain experience. You could also raise it in discussions with clients or those in your supply chain to find out what opportunities they are providing for young people.

Your organisation

Provide high quality opportunities for young people to give them a taste of the working world. There are a number of ways this can be done, including work experience placements, Traineeships (a Government led initiative), as well as offering internships and supporting volunteering programmes.

For those particularly keen to support youth volunteering then you can join Step Up to Serve, a national campaign, lead by HRH The Prince of Wales, which aims to double the number of young people participating in social action by 2020. The CIPD is one of the members of the Business Pioneers Group and businesses are being encouraged to pledge their support. Find out more.

Provide access routes for young people and implement youth friendly recruitment practices to build your talent pipeline and ensure your organisation is socially and age diverse.

CIPD research has uncovered a clear mismatch between employers’ expectations of young people during the recruitment process and young people’s understanding of what is expected of them. This is hindering young people’s access to the labour market and contributing to high rates of youth unemployment. It is also causing a ticking time bomb of skills shortages for UK businesses, which are unwittingly cutting themselves off from a diverse pool of talent.

There are a number of steps employers can take to help bridge the gap between themselves and young people, in order to make recruitment practices more youth friendly. This includes thinking about how to bring more young people into the business, either by creating new access routes such as apprenticeships, internships, traineeships, school leaver programmes or graduate schemes or by re-designing existing entry-level positions.

The way that roles are advertised is also important and a range of recruitment methods will ensure the role is visible to the widest possible talent pool. Short listing and selection processes should be transparent, so young people know what to expect. You will also get the most out of a young person during interview stage if you help to put them at ease. Finally, where possible provide feedback, by doing this you can directly influence young people’s behaviour in the recruitment process and help them succeed in the future.

Read Employers are from Mars, young people are from Venus: addressing the young people/jobs mismatch for further insight into the mismatch between employers and young people at the recruitment stage. The CIPD Apprenticeships that Work guide provides information on introducing an apprentice to your organisation.

Issues around mismatch in supply and demand of Apprenticeship vacancies is explored in our The match factor: good practice in Apprenticeship recruitment report which makes a number of additional recommendations to employers and learning providers.


Act as a youth employment champion and look for opportunities to make recruitment practices within your organisation as youth friendly as possible. Read our Recruiting young people: top tips for employers booklet for the key information on how to do this.

Your organisation

Provide entry level job opportunities for young people such as apprenticeships, school leaver programmes and graduate schemes and review existing positions – consider if the role you are recruiting for really requires previous work experience and make sure experience gained through voluntary roles is also recognised.

Review your recruitment methods – ensure your selection and interview practices are suitable for young candidates and provide guidance and training for line managers on how to interview young people.

You could also consider working with your local Jobcentre Plus offices to see whether there is more your organisation can be doing to recruit unemployed young people via the BiTC and Department for Work and Pensions GenerationTalent programme.

Invest in future talent to ensure young recruits are in the best position to deliver for your organisation.

Creating access routes into the labour market and recruiting young people is incredibly important but it is only one half of the equation. It is also crucial that when a young worker first enters the workplace, the experience sets them up for a long and successful career.

For a young person, the experience of entering the workplace and adjusting to working life, perhaps for the first time, whilst also learning and performing tasks they may never have done before, can be a daunting prospect. As a result, the role of the line manager is crucial to ensuring the right level of support is provided to help younger, inexperienced employees develop skills and expertise, grow in confidence and, in the longer-term, flourish in their new role and contribute to business’s successes. Investing in future talent in this way also brings benefits for line managers and wider teams too, as bringing more young people into organisations opens up development opportunities for existing staff to hone their professional and personal skills.

CIPD research with employers who successfully employ young people uncovered a number of key recommendations that will help get the most from young employees, including:

  • providing a structured induction to help young recruits understand their job, adapt to the organisation effectively and settle comfortably into the workplace
  • encouraging young employees to build up confidence and trust in the organisation by ensuring they have a consistent supervisor or line manager they can go to for support
  • providing regular feedback and opportunities for discussion recognising talent as it emerges and provide appropriate opportunities for it to flourish, either via additional duties, formal training or opportunities to gain skills outside of work, such as via volunteering. Read Managing Future Talent for further guidance on how to create a culture that will give young recruits the opportunity to thrive.


Look to best practice to provide the right practical support and guidance to ensure young employees get the start they need to succeed, highlighted in the CIPD’s Managing Future Talent guide. Volunteer to line manage or mentor a young employee within your organisation and share the guide with colleagues, client and those in your supply chain.

Your organisation

Invest in your line managers who play a crucial role in helping young employees embed themselves within the organisation. For any employee, a good line manager is vital, however, for a young person new to the world of work, their needs can be different to those of a more experienced worker. As such, they might require a different level of support to navigate through those early days and it is important your line managers are equipped to deliver this.

As well as connecting into your organisations corporate social responsibility agenda, volunteering programmes have been shown to have a long term impact on organisational success if integrated into learning and development strategies. The CIPD has developed a framework which allows employers to understand the various skills employees can gain from different types of volunteering, specifically programmes that encourage greater levels of engagement with young people. Further details can be found in the Volunteering to learn: Employee development through community action report.

Measure the success and impact of your youth engagement/development programmes to help highlight the value and returns on your workforce investment to employees, leaders and investors.

In order to most effectively champion the importance of engaging with young people to colleagues, business leaders and investors you must be able to provide evidence of your returns on investment. There are four main questions that will help you to define which areas of your programme you need to measure:

  • What are the aims and objectives of your project/programme? This is important to understand so you can measure your progress against these targets. Setting these targets and measuring against them helps you to decide where to focus your efforts, and whether you're being effective against your objectives.

  • Who is responsible for managing and using the data? It is important that the management and use of the data is the responsibility of a team or person who looks after the quality of the data. This means that anybody using the data is able to ensure they are using the most up to date version, and that it is stored securely.

  • What information do you currently collect about apprentices, interns or those on work experience placements? It's important to know what information you currently collect about your workforce, including apprentices, interns or those on work experience placements. Do you know their average age? Level of qualification? Do you monitor your workforce diversity?

  • What information will help you to meet the objectives of your programme? Making sure that metrics are relevant and useful is important as data management can be very resource intensive. Ensure that you are collecting data that is appropriate and of acceptable quality before it is used to inform decision making. Concentrating on setting key performance indicators (KPIs) will help you to focus on measuring what matters most to your organisation.

You and your organisation

Implement some robust measurement techniques to understand the impact that your youth engagement strategies have on your business, including performance and productivity measures. This will help develop your own unique 'business case' which can be shared with colleagues across the business, investors and, where appropriate, publicised to customers. Find out more about the CIPD's Valuing your Talent research series and watch this space for more details on how to apply this specifically to investment in young people – coming soon.

Inspiring the future

Inspiring the Future connects business professionals to schools and is perfect for anyone seeking a low-commitment volunteering experience

Find out more