Our campaign to tackle and resolve the problem of youth unemployment by achieving a shift in employer engagement with young people
Date: 06/09/11 Duration: 00:23:06
In this podcast some young people discuss their experiences on training schemes along with Jennifer Oakley, recruitment Delivery Manager for Transport for London and Zarena Brown, HR Director, Hilton Hotels who both run youth employment programmes. Katerina Rudiger gives the CIPD perspective.
View the full podcast transcript
FA: I came through the Prince’s Trust. I had a background of offending so it was a course offered to ex-offenders so I took the opportunity and I went on the course.
Philippa Lamb: And how was it?
FA: It was great really. We had two interviews with three panel members...
PL: And how was that? Intimidating?
FA: Yeah it was a little bit…it was very and I was very fortunate to be able to have gained the placement there.
PL: FA is 20. As a young offender he was given access to one of Transport for London’s work placements via the Prince’s Trust, one of many youth employment programmes supported by the organisation. He enjoyed it so much that he applied, successfully, to do a second placement and he's now at university doing a degree in computer sciences. When you finish the degree presumably you’re planning on sticking with TfL?
FA: Yeah I hope to stick to TfL ((laughs)) yeah.
PL: Looking hopefully at a pass then ((laughs)).
FA: Yeah I hope to get on a graduate scheme and it’s something I'm looking forward to and hopefully I will get there.
PL: So you first walked through the door of TfL what last year some time?
FA: Yeah last year, March, yeah.
PL: So everything has changed for you, hasn’t it, since then.
FA: Massively yeah. I never thought I’d be here one day. I never thought I’d actually be able to get into a very reputable organisation.
PL: What did you think you would do?
FA: Seriously? I haven’t a clue. I had no plans. Now I have plans for the next ten years ((laughs)) before I had never imagined myself to be working for Transport for London and actually helping the city to move and actually contributing to something very massive.
PL: Unemployment and particularly youth unemployment is a hot topic right now and articles in the press about it make for worrying reading. They report that one in five 16 to 24 year olds are jobless and that the number’s growing. There's been talk of a lost generation of people; their careers blighted by their traumatic experiences of youth unemployment but it’s worth looking more closely at the figures. According to Katerina Rudiger, Skills Policy Adviser at the CIPD, the well-known one in five stat may not be entirely accurate.
Katerina Rudiger: You sort of have to analyse it a little bit more closely because what the government is doing at the moment they are counting everyone, even those young people who are in education and training, as unemployed, so naturally that inflates the figures a bit and is sort of distorting the picture.
PL: So a more realistic figure would be what then in the CIPD’s view?
KR: Well more realistically more useful it would be to look at those people who are not in education and training or in employment at the moment, so the so-called NEETS and take that figure as the figure for youth unemployment. However there are problems with that as well because not all of those people might be available for work because some of them are parents or they might be offenders and so on and so again it’s not as straightforward but I think what we’re trying to say is that the picture is not as bleak as it’s often portrayed in the mainstream media.
PL: So the devil is clearly in the detail as with all statistics but what the CIPD view is, is that real youth unemployment is more like what one in eight than the one in five than we’ve heard so much about?
KR: Yes it’s probably more around 13% for the 18 to 24 year olds instead of 18%. So again obviously that's higher than the average. Unemployment is always around sort of seven to 8% at the moment but then you have to bear in mind that youth unemployment will always be higher than the average unemployment.
PL: So traditionally you see a marked difference, many more unemployed young people than in the mainstream workforce?
KR: Yes traditionally youth unemployment is always a little bit higher. However in the recession, and this has been the case in previous recessions as well, but this is even worse because if you think about it employers won’t take a risk or they see it as a risk to employ a young person rather than somebody who has a lot of experience who will be operational immediately and they can rely on getting the job done whereas with a young person it’s often you’re not quite sure how long they will take to be fully productive.
PL: Although youth unemployment might not be quite as severe as recently reported the fact remains there is a persistent proportion of young people who don’t find work in good times or in bad. The work of companies like TfL in tackling this is crucial. Transport for London shifts seven million passengers across the capital every day and employs 28,000 people. The scheme, like the one Fahad is involved in, is just one of the great many programmes they offer. TfL took on 91 young people through recruitment schemes last year, the roles ranged from graduate programmes; apprenticeships; year in industry opportunities; summer placements and also the Prince’s trust placements themselves. Jennifer Oakley is the Recruitment Delivery Manager.
Jennifer Oakley: One of the things that TfL strives to be is as diverse as the city we represent. So everything we do looks at mirroring London’s population. We do have certain targets but also it’s around, you know, we are a public sector company, we do offer a service to and for us it’s very important to grow our own within the business, bringing them in at the start of their careers, we can then mould them into our future leaders and our technical specialists.
PL: Jennifer’s team is responsible for TfL’s recruitment development initiatives which includes an array of different schemes.
JO: We take on about 50 graduates a year, apprentice recruitments; young people’s placements; undergraduate works; summer placements; year in industry; disability schemes; young offenders’ schemes, so a whole host of various placements that we offer to young people.
PL: The government has decided that tackling youth unemployment is a high priority for them. They’ve announced new funding to improve prospects for unemployed young people, including 100,000 work experience places and 40,000 new apprenticeships, plus the addition of 21 new technical colleges for 11 to 19 year olds. As one of the partner organisations, TfL was set the task by the Mayor of London three years ago to create 850 apprenticeships every year for four years.
JO: We look after the internships such as the London Underground Operational Apprenticeship, so that's the very customer-facing roles and we bring them in and eventually they can go on to be train drivers or signallers, that kind of thing. We also look after highway technicians apprentice and we’re also bringing in new apprenticeships all the time so we’re looking at creating a quantity surveying apprenticeship. So it’s all around niche skills and scarce skills. So for us it’s hard to recruit quantity surveyors so we bring them in on the grad scheme, we have a year in industry but we’re now looking at the apprenticeship level as well to get those future technical specialists.
PL: So if a young person was to come to you as a fledgling apprentice what would their experience be? What would happen?
JO: It would be very hands on. We don’t let them shy away in the corner and they will be very hands on from day one. Obviously they have a full induction into the company first off and then they will be placed on various placements. Apprenticeships are very operational so it’s learning while you earn. So basically we’ll support them to get their NVQs, BTecs, that are relevant to each scheme and we will give them a flavour of what it’s like in an operation environment so they do get very hands on experience.
PL: The government has also announced an initiative called Get Britain Working, which aims to support the most vulnerable to get into work and help people to break the cycle of benefit dependency through a number of major Welfare to Work reforms. These include the creation of work clubs across the country and the delivery of the new Enterprise Allowance to support up to 40,000 new businesses to get up and running over the next two years. The CIPD is working to support a number of government initiatives. Katerina Rudiger again.
KR: It’s a number of separate initiatives. It’s working really with those who are the furthest away from the labour market, so long term unemployed, those who faced multiple challenges, you know, they might have care responsibilities; they might be ex-offenders; they might be disabled; they might have mental health problems; or just coming from households where nobody has ever worked so it’s sort of working with those people via mentoring, helping them to build their CV, getting them into the labour market by providing work experience and that's really where we at the CIPD are trying to support the government and we’re just about to produce a guidance for work experience for employers so that they have some help in structuring the work experience in a way that's beneficial for both, the young person as well as for the employer.
PL: It’s vital that these placements are more than a token effort, they need to be useful to young people.
JO: When we do work experience say longer term so a three month internship or a six month internship or a year in industry, we work with the business to make sure there is structured projects in place and they all have development plans as well.
PL: So they’re not just envelope stuffing?
JO: No not at all, not making the tea ((laughs)). So we will give them objectives. So we have an internal learning and development team that will work with those business managers, will set them objectives, and at the end the idea for us is that if someone comes in on a placement eventually they’ll join us on a graduate scheme. So it’s all pipeline. So obviously for us we want to make sure they are the right candidate and the right calibre but also we have to make sure they have a good experience because it could be so damaging on campus for us if they have a bad experience with us.
PL: If your organisation is interested in looking at the development of work placement programmes you can download the new CIPD guide for employers, Internships That Work. You'll find it on the CIPD website.
Recruiting young people into apprenticeships or work placements brings specific challenges. It’s likely to be their first experience of the workplace or indeed team working for example.
Hilton Hotels have 200 hotels in Europe, they are in 30 countries and they employ over 25,000 people. They have plans to open 90 hotels between now and 2013. Hilton is committed to offering 100 work experience placements as part of the government’s Get Britain Working initiative, as well as being signed up to the government’s Sectoral Academies initiative offering eight week placements with guaranteed job interviews at the end of them. On top of this they offer 60 formal apprenticeships mainly for chefs in their own kitchens. Zarena Brown’s role is to recruit the best people and support their development.
Zarena Brown: I think from our point of view it’s the most exciting time for a young person, that entry into the workplace and we’re really excited to help them make that transition and I think it’s really important as employers we help them to make that transition, so if anything we put our arms around those individuals, probably a little bit more than other people and when you look at some of the things we do around apprenticeships and work placements, we have a really clear strategy about making sure we embrace that population and we enable them to come into our business.
PL: Jennifer Oakley.
JO: When you’re dealing with experienced hire recruitment, people who have been in work for a number of years, they’re used to the interview process and they know how businesses work, when you’re dealing with young people…so for instance we meet a lot of youngsters that are coming for interview, it’s the first time in an office, it’s their first time in an interview environment and it can be really daunting. So what we try and make sure we do is we provide as much information as possible for youngsters or young people coming for interview. So on our website there's a whole host of interview tips and techniques and we try and guide them as much as possible. Throughout the recruitment process you have to be a bit more, not lenient, that's probably not the right word, let me think of a word, a bit more sympathetic.
PL: The government’s clearly keen to help young people into work and the funding is very welcome but is money enough to get employers on board in the long term? For TfL it’s more about the business case.
JO: Yes 100%. We are a public service. We transport around seven million people a day so for us, a political organisation as well, a lot of bad press, for us it is really important and I think when you actually join TfL you see it in action, if you like, so we have candidates coming in for interview days and, you know, they’ve commented to me, “Oh you really are a really diverse company,” so they come to our offices for interviews, they walk around and you actually see it.
PL: So it’s an authenticity issue for you?
PL: Driving home the reality that we are the company, we are the organisation we say we are?
PL: For Hilton too there's a business case for working hard at bringing young people on board. First and foremost it’s a smart way of getting out into the community of hospitality and chef colleges and appealing directly to ambitious young people.
ZB: From our point of view we want to promote hospitality, really talk externally and we work very hard with local colleges anyway to talk about the career that people can have so we absolutely need to be able to bring a new pipeline of people into our industry and to be able to continue to support our growth.
PL: And Zarena reckons that the extra effort you have to put in to recruit, train and nurture young people more than pays off in the end.
ZB: You have to work that bit harder but I think we have an obligation to do that, you know, what they do bring is maybe some challenge and fresh thinking that somebody that's been in the workplace for five, seven years, doesn’t have and that youth, that lack of experience in some way, harnessed in the right way is also very refreshing as an employer to have. So whilst there are some challenges in managing it I think it’s really important to have that vitality in the business as well.
PL: Can you see real quantifiable benefits longer term in terms of engagement and retention and loyalty?
ZB: Absolutely we definitely see that people want to stay with us, progress with us, they buy into us as a company. So for us our engagement schools are made up of many different things but certainly our young employees that started with us say they really enjoy working for us.
PL: Apprenticeships are the biggest element of the Hilton approach to youth employment and the chef apprenticeship scheme is one of the most popular on offer.
ZB: We all know, and we talk about it both in hospitality and outside of hospitality there is a real skill shortage in terms of chefs, I guess, so we want to, and we have, created a fantastic scheme where we take around 50 apprenticeships that want to come into the industry and be a great chef. We take them on a training programme for a year.
PL: Where do you get them?
ZB: We advertise through colleges, we advertise through the social media but really it’s word of mouth because it’s such an exciting scheme they go and talk to all of their friends so we had 900 applications for our scheme for this year. And they get to go to college so they get their NVQs so that training aspect is really important but actually they do two placements so they get to experience two very different kitchens. We give them a mentor. We have a Michelin star restaurant in our Hilton on Park Lane Hotel and they go and work for the day in the Galvins Restaurant. So they do some really exciting things which is really about inspiring them to say, whilst it’s an entry level position and there's a long way to go to progress their career we really want to give them that insight and excite them about what they can do with this.
PL: You show them where they could go?
ZB: Yes absolutely we show them.
PL: I went down to the Hilton Hotel on London’s Park Lane to meet some of the apprentices.
Sam: I'm Sam I'm 18. I'm currently working in pastry. I've been here since September.
Jordan: My name’s Jordan. I work in the banquet kitchen. I've actually come into this quite late in my life, I'm 27.
Joe: My name’s Joe, I work in banqueting. I'm 18 years old. I've been here about six to seven weeks now.
Sam: I really enjoy basic cooking and as soon as I finished my A levels I straightaway went looking for apprenticeships and this one was the first one that turned up.
Joe: When I left school for a year or so I tried a couple of things in construction, trying to follow in the footsteps of my family but...
PL: Not for you?
Joe: It wasn't really for me I did not enjoy it at all and then actually one of my friends said, “Joe you’re not a bad cook why not go to college and try it out?” It went from there.
PL: Yeah I mean what was it like getting the apprenticeship was it tough?
Sam: When I went for my apprenticeship there was a good like 20 or 30 people going for it and there was only about ten or 12 spaces. We had like a sort of a cook off with a mystery basket. We had loads of team skills...
PL: Did you so you had to cook on the spot?
PL: So what did you cook?
Sam: We done spicy couscous, salad. We done pan fried fish. It was whatever we had we just had to do it.
PL: And what’s it like day to day?
Jordan: It’s hard. I'm not going to lie it is a tough day. You’re always on your feet running about, here, there, everywhere.
PL: What time do you start early?
Joe: Eight o'clock start. Most days it’s a four o'clock finish, we sometimes do another couple of hours overtime. It’s worth it at the end of the day because like once you've finished putting out, say like you do a banquet of 700 meals and you sort of look stand back and you know it is quite a mad achievement I think.
PL: Do you know where you want to end up?
Joe: I'm heading for Marshall’s job. ((laughs))
PL: So you want the boss’ job?
Joe: No. really in the future yeah I’d like to open my own restaurant.
Sam: For me obviously I want to carry on with pastry and places like France have some of the best pastry kitchens like in the world, even Chef Marshall has said to me like if you carry on with pastry here he will send me away for a couple of months just to work in a pastry, just to get what one pastry kitchen is like just with pastry in and it’s an opportunity to think where else would you get that? It’s unbelievable.
PL: Training up Sam, Joe and Jordan means of course that in a few years they could well be brilliant chefs at which point their market value will have risen. Now some see this as one of the biggest risks in spending money to train young people up but not Zerena.
ZB: Certainly all the apprentices that have stayed with us are really committed to staying with the company. So I think it’s very hard to beat that first 12 months and it stays them. We then have other programmes that we’ve created after that so the journey doesn’t stop there. We have a chef mentoring programme that they can go on afterwards. So it’s working really well for us.
PL: So what about TFl’s retention rate?
JO: Our retention rate on schemes is very good. Going back to the graduate schemes retention rate after the scheme, five years into the business, 80% of our grads are still there.
PL: It’s impressive isn’t it?
JO: Yeah and I think also we can offer such variety within TfL. We are one company so we are Transport for London but we do have different business areas, so we have London Underground, Surface Transport and Corporate, and the thing about us is we will move people around in the business and so here's a lot of variety. So people that do work on our schemes have said, you know, it’s almost like going into a different company sometimes, if you get moved into a different area. So it keeps it fresh and there's lots of different areas that they can get involved in.
PL: Measuring the knock on impact of spending so much time and money on these programmes isn’t straightforward but at Hilton they do see a clear impact on the overall engagement levels in the organisation.
ZB: Each year we do our survey and our employees tell us that they absolutely love working for us. So our engagement scores are over 90%. We have, if you look at the specific programmes, people stay with us for a long period of time and we track those programmes as well. We have been recognised in the Sunday Times Awards in terms of being one of the top employers. So there's lots of things that say these programmes really do work for us.
PL: Both TfL and Hilton use their youth programmes as part of a talent pipeline, an effective way to recruit and retain fresh talent. It involves initial outlay in training and teaching but it clearly pays off for them. To make real inroads into the youth unemployment issue it seems there does need to be a sea-change, a shift back to the mind-set where employers think a bit harder about growing their own talent rather than just buying it in. Katerina Rudiger.
KR: Yes I suppose that's exactly it. It’s first of all the perception that they have that young people are a risk and that young people are not good enough and so on and that government needs to do everything, I think employers need to take on more responsibility. And you know there are a lot of studies that show that first of all training, the benefit of training, is much higher for the employer than actually for the individual and secondly that for things like apprenticeships the returns are so faster so after one or two years you have like a productive, loyal employee. And then obviously employers always used the argument of poaching and they said, “Well if I train somebody then they will go off to another organisation,” but obviously if more employers would provide training and apprenticeships and work experience the issue of poaching wouldn’t be such a problem because everyone would provide this. So I think sometimes employers tend to hide behind this as an excuse so they definitely need to step up.
PL: So is the government doing enough, Zerena Brown?
ZB: I think it isn’t up to just the government. So it is about working in partnership. As employers we need to go forward and make sure we’re talking to the government, we’re involved and we’re influencing their policymaking to say, actually when you look at how many people are potentially unemployed under the age of 24, how many vacancies still exist out in the UK, there's obviously a big gap there. So I think it’s about that dialogue and talking to government. I think the placements and the initiatives they’ve got in place are absolutely right and we need to make sure that dialogue happens.
PL: There are big challenges ahead when it comes to tackling youth unemployment but employers can do a great deal and the business and social cases for change are strong. HR and the organisation need to invest strongly in developing young people and the government in turn needs to work hard to bring these changes about and to promote the very positive benefits associated with developing young people through work experience placements.
Explore our related content
Explores how to develop the next generation in order to meet business and learner needs
Outlines challenges faced by employers of young people and the CIPD's approach to addressing some of these issues
Academics, experts and key stakeholders explore the policies and practices needed to improve the quantity and quality of apprenticeships for young people