SMEs need to do more to beat youth unemployment

Research published this week has revealed that just over half (58 per cent) of SMEs employ young people. The figure contrasts with 93 per cent of large organisations which currently do so.

The CIPD survey of more than 850 HR professionals, conducted as part of the Institute’s Learning to Work programme, found that the number of organisations employing those aged between 16 and 24 rose to almost 79 per cent in 2014, compared to 73 per cent the previous year. The Learning to Work survey supports the CIPD’s work around youth employment by tracking latest developments in terms of levels of employer engagement with young people.

The findings come at the end of National Apprenticeship Week and show that while nearly a half of all employers (47 per cent) offered apprenticeships in 2014, a substantial increased from just under a third in (31 per cent) in 2013, among SMEs only a quarter (26 per cent) provide such schemes, compared to two thirds (62 per cent) of larger organisations.

Read more about National Apprenticeship Week:

According to the CBI private sector SMEs account for three in every five jobs in the UK. With youth unemployment levels reportedly at the highest for 20 years, the CIPD believes that SMEs have an important role to play in increasing opportunities for young people. Nearly a million people aged 16-24 were classified as NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) in the fourth quarter of 2014, accounting for 13.1 per cent of this age group, according to government figures.

“What we have in the UK is an ageing workforce,” said Annie Peate, policy and campaign officer for the CIPD’s Learning to Work Programme. “If you are bringing in [younger employees] you’re thinking about your longer-term talent planning. It might be more difficult for SMEs. It’s a difficult message saying this person is going to be less experienced and they are going to require more support but if you do these things it will pay dividends.”

Younger team members are more innovative, as well as being more engaged and loyal and they were also able to help junior managers develop, according to the CIPD research.

Help and incentives are available for smaller employers. The Skills Funding Agency provides £1,500 to firms with fewer than 50 employees to help them with apprenticeships. Companies must employ an apprentice for a minimum of 30 hours a week, pay at least the national minimum wage for apprentices and help them to develop the skills and knowledge needed to do their job. Reviews of progress are also required.

Image: Shutterstock

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