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Britain’s young can take their business future into their own hands

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450,000 young people not in education, employment or training have never had a regular job, revealed new research by the Work Foundation. Figures of disengaged youth are higher in northern England, where some 20 per cent of the youth populations never had regular employment, whereas the figure is a lower 14 per cent further south, in cities such as Bournemouth and Bristol. 

Todays youth may believe the path to employment are eleven o’clock lie ins and a weekly stroll to the job centre, rather than undergoing an unpaid work placement. Excuses usually boil down to “there are no jobs”, but surely there are other ways to build up experience and gain employment. To look on the bright side, Real Business investigated some specific schemes created to open doors for young people:

The Midlands Manufacturing Apprenticeship (MMD)

Part of a new 11-month vocational training programme created by a collaboration between the Team Telecom Group (TTG) and aero-engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, this apprenticeship will allow young people to gain an intermediate level apprenticeship and a Further Education Technical Certificate.

Apprentices take part in off-the-job training programmes designed to broaden their qualification base, develop new skills, and strengthen applied skills in engineering. There is also a platform to progress to an advanced apprenticeship, where individuals can achieve skilled craftsperson or technician level status within the industry.

“Apprenticeships provide people with the foundation required to excel and can lead to highly rewarding careers”, says Andy Cripps, Rolls-Royce apprentice development leader. “The Midlands Manufacturing Apprenticeship directly benefits local manufacturing companies through providing them with access to Rolls-Royce trained apprentices.”

But TTG only offer work experience to three apprentices. Without a promised job at the end of the scheme, individuals may have to return to the dole queue. 

The Bridge

A part of O2’s Think Big Campaign, and linked to the government’s Start-up Loans, (see below), five successful entrepreneurs, two top Cranford Business School directors, professionals from the world of sport and the military, plus recent graduates have joined force in a bid to deliver a new education to 18 to 25 year olds. The scheme aims to ensure young people leaving education have the commercial and communication skills to thrive in business.

Tom Hickmanm explains how the educational organisation came to be: “It is exactly this crucial point of transition that we want to bridge for young people. We have created The Bridge to furnish people starting out in their career with the skills that today’s employers demand. In doing this, I have very deliberately built a team of people who have been there, done it, and bought the T-shirt. Who better than the business people of today to teach young people what they really need to know?”

The organisers may understand that there is a clear void between education and workplace, but The Bridge’s training programmes seem unrealistic in price: some £97 for a young person to take part in the Basecamp programme, that lasts only one day. The 12-week Summit course is priced at a whopping £1995, and somehow promises a £6,550 return. The 12-week learning programme does offer a range of mentoring, networking, access to The Bridge Incubator Fund for business start-ups and a placement with one of The Bridge Partners. But unless you have parents willing to shed out nearly two grand, it’s unlikely young people be able to afford the initial payment. Are The Bridge missing the point slightly: that young people are out of work and therefore out of cash?

The Start-up Loan scheme

“Take your future in your own hands” is the slogan for this new government initiative to drive start-ups and encourage young entrepreneurs, between 18 to 24, to put their plans into action. The initiative offers to lend up to £2,500 in a personal loan to a young businessman or -woman, whilst providing business support and a mentoring scheme. The service providers that will work alongside Start-Up Loans Company include The Prince’s Trust, PNE/Virgin and Young Britain.

Since being launched by business secretary Vince Cable in September, 1,200 people have registered an interest in applying for a loan. “With more young people than ever before looking to start their own business, Start-Up loans will provide the support they need to help get their business ideas off the ground”, said Cable. “The scheme is not just about money. They will also get access to professional mentors who will pass on their knowledge and expertise about running successful enterprises. Money is going out of the door now, so those who want to take advantage should apply today.

The start-up loan will need to be repaid in five years at three per cent Retail Prices Index. Burdening youth is not the problem here; university students will graduate with over £27,000 debt in tuition alone, anyway. But this is a personal loan: the entrepreneur is personally liable to repay it, not the business. 

Finally, we all know that £2,500 doesn’t go very far in today’s market; it can barely buy a car, let alone start a business. Despite positive stories of bootstrapped start-ups managing on £500, this vision is highly unlikely.

The Start-up initiative is promising for young entrepreneurs. However, unless these businesses are successful and flourish, which will take time, the impact on youth unemployment will be close to nil.

It’s clear from these examples that there is a range of initiatives out there other than work experience. All have their positive and negative points. But yes, unpaid apprenticeships and internships are more numerous and do allow young people to gain vital experience. 

Young people have fallen into the trap of thinking jobs should be presented to them on a golden platter. It seems Britain’s youth are either overwhelmed with information or too lazy to put in the hours. In short, young people cannot understand the benefits of undergoing free work placements in return for long term rewards.

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