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Youth unemployment | Credit: Getty Images

The trouble with youth unemployment

Lulu Jones - Intern

Lulu Jones is currently interning at RTA from the Job Centre. Here she provides her opinion and some advice.

The subject of youth unemployment is one that has been plaguing the media for a while now.  In general there are two schools of thought from two generations, the ones who feel that the youth of today have it better than ever and are simply too lazy and picky – for example Jamie Oliver who expressed his opinions on how foreign workers work harder than young English employees.  Then there are the youth who feel let down by the older generations and are desperate for work that’s not there.

One of the most memorable headlines in relation to the state of unemployment in the UK is the story of how more than 1700 people applied for 8 jobs at a new Costa Coffee store that was opening in Nottingham last year.  Surely, this would show that the people of Britain aren’t fussy when it comes to applying for jobs, and that there are simply not enough jobs out there for everyone. The media does sensationalise figures and statistics to scaremonger, but the reasons for the youth unemployment predicament need to be assessed and things need to change, not just to help the youth of today, but to also help boost the economy that younger generations will be supporting in years to come.

What can be done?

Jamie Oliver had some strong views on youth unemployment.

Jamie Oliver had some strong views on youth unemployment. (Photograph: Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

I think it is unfair to pigeon hole young people when it comes to unemployment, as there are a lot of people who are willing to work hard at anything just so they can get by in the world.  Having said this, I do think there is a lot of arrogance surrounding the way young people and graduates view the job market.  During a course I went on last summer for graduates, I was given a great piece of advice: don’t overlook smaller businesses when applying for jobs. People, in particular graduates, seem to be obsessed with working for the biggest companies and corporations, and don’t think that it would be worth their time to work for smaller businesses, this in turn scares people away from applying for jobs as they assume that all jobs will have hundreds of people applying for a couple of positions, when this is not always the case.

It used to be that if you worked hard and got into university and worked hard on your degree, you’d then be able to start the career you wanted, that’s how it once was a few generations ago, and the youth of today are still in that frame of mind when in fact everything’s changed.  With this in mind, it seems fair enough that young people feel that they deserve the jobs that they want.  One of the problems with higher education is just this, if we get a degree we then expect to be at an advantage to others, but now everyone is being encouraged to go to university (despite rising costs of higher education), which to a certain extent has rendered non vocational degrees obsolete.

Universities should put more emphasis on vocational training to prepare graduates for the real world.

Universities should put more emphasis on vocational training to prepare graduates for the real world. (Photo: Andy Fox)

Of course there are companies which require applicants to be educated to degree level in any field, but there isn’t much proof that going to university to get a degree which doesn’t lead straight down a career path is any good for you.  There should be more emphasis on vocational studies and apprenticeships which give people the real life experience they need to become employable.  Universities should also take this approach and incorporate more placements into courses to help students learn more than just theories and quotes from books – and I’m speaking as a graduate.

I have no experience, so I can’t get experience?

Then comes the problem of young people having no experience, and then not being able to get experience – because they have no experience.  This tiresome cycle affects a lot of people, and with the job market as it is, one of the more common ways of getting experience is to work as an intern for free, which hardly anyone’s circumstances can allow them to do.  Yes, some of the positions which pay nothing may lead

The vicious cycle of having no experience

The vicious cycle of having no experience therefor not being able to get a job

on to a paid job, but who can afford to work for free for six months and stay alive at the same time?  This seems to go hand in hand with the rising tuition fees, more emphasis is being put on how people who have more money are more likely to gain career prospects as they are the ones who can afford to go to university, and they can afford to work for free until they’re offered a permanent role.  To combat youth unemployment, companies shouldn’t be allowed to exploit young people by not paying them to work, this is a simple human right which has been overlooked because there are a small minority of people who are able to do that.  However, there is also a mind set in which people think that work experience as a waiter or in a shop won’t count when they’re applying for their dream jobs, so they don’t bother trying to get jobs in industries like catering because they don’t want a career in that field.  In actual fact, showing that you’re able to put in hard work, work as a team and problem solve from working in a restaurant will show employers the skills you have, even if you don’t think they’re obvious.

Things can only get better…

Any experience is good experience, even if you want to work in a field completely opposite to what you have been doing, if you’re able to demonstrate transferable skills, this will put you in far better stead than someone who has no experience at all.  Even though there are less jobs out there, there are still ways to try and make yourself more employable, but there are steps that need to be taken by institutes like universities, schools and the government to turn things around so that younger generations aren’t being scared into unemployment, and instead encouraged and given hope that they will be able to find work.  It’s not all bad news though because apparently youth unemployment has fallen by 125,000, leaving the figure at a mere 2.34 million, scary sounding figures but at least there is hope!

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