According to the latest ONS statistics, three-quarters of employers offer programmes aimed at the three millino young people who are part of the UK workforce.
Expanding on these figures, the CIPD released a report discussing how development programmes for young workers can help drive engagement, increase efficiency and foster greater productivity. The premise of the research was that investing in young people will positively impact the wider business, both culturally and at the bottom line.
Japanese company Fujitsu, for example, has claimed that by attracting a diverse range of young talent, it is starting to alter the demographic of the organisation, and is seeing improved gender diversity. Retention is higher, recruitment costs have gone down and the company is creating a pipeline of future leaders.
Meanwhile, Graham Salisbury, head of human resources at international charity ActionAid, suggested that the decision to recruit apprentices was partly based on the organisation’s commitment to practise what they preach: “If you are campaigning on policies in Bangladesh, you can’t ignore it in Basingstoke or Bermondsey.” However, the CIPD was quick to note that the desire to “give back” was not the primary motivational factor in the decision to widen access. Instead, it was frequently driven by business need.
Fujitsu’s HR business partner Sarah Bampton claimed it was all about long-term talent management, with the reduction in youth unemployment being a secondary benefit. This was echoed by Barclays’ head of early careers Mike Thompson, who suggested the Barclays Degree Programme was designed for a similar purpose. “To grow non-graduate talent, high-potential young people who we felt wanted an alternative to university,” he added. “It meant we could begin to tap into, and identify, talent earlier than graduates.”
For Capgemini the need to attract non-graduate talent has a link to wider skills shortages in the industry. Rebecca Plant, head of apprentice and graduate programmes noted that it was forecast that 150,000 software engineering jobs would go unfilled. And that’s only going to grow year-on-year.
In broader terms, Bampton suggested that the impact of young people seemed to spread across the organisation. “It makes a real difference to how people feel about who they work for, and therefore how they do their job. You’ve got that intangible stuff, but you’ve also got the tangible bottomline impact as well. Those two things together mean it’s just a no-brainer for us,” she said.
“I think, if we decided to turn graduates and apprentices off tomorrow, there would be uproar. It would have such a massive impact on how people view the business and our ability to provide great service to our customers, and be a diverse and responsible employer that people want to work for.”
Capgemini’s Plant, who identified a similar impact, suggested that it switches something else on in existing employees, that they can help and mentor and support. She noted that productivity has gone up throughout the organisation as well. Thompson added that the positive engagement they bring, the attitude and loyalty rub off on other colleagues.
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The CIPD suggested that young people are often maligned for not having the right skills needed in the workplace. However, the body emphasised that there are a number of other skills and strengths that young people typically bring to the workplace.
Plant suggested that the benefit of an apprentice is their high level of engagement. Meanwhile, Bampton claimed that because of their different approach to work, a fresh pair of eyes and their energy, they deliver greater efficiency.
All four companies explained that they initially need to focus around work-readiness and professional behaviour. “A big part is ‘life growing-up’ skills. Without being patronising, that bridge from education to work is massive. It’s understanding what being a working professional means,” said Plant.
Brampton agreed that professionalism was the biggest challenge – turning up to meetings on time, getting to work on time, putting a tie on, and correctly wording an email were some of the basics that needed to be covered.
Ruth Stuart, research adviser for L&D at the CIPD, explained that organisations need to establish effective development opportunities from the moment they’re employed, so each can retain them and build on the unique skills they bring.
By providing an appealing alternative to university through their recruitment and development programmes, for example, Barclays and Capgemini have been able to tap into and retain young talent, plug significant skills gaps and achieve substantial organisational benefits, he said.
Stuart added: “This shows just how crucial a clear business case is in achieving a quality outcome.”
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