December 9 2013 Latest news:
Victoria Leggett, Education correspondent
Friday, February 1, 2013
Lazy and always on Facebook? Or eager to learn and keen to make a good impression? Victoria Leggett looks at the concerns that can prevent businesses hiring a young worker and whether they’re justified.
For some businesses, young people are seen as the workers who come in with fresh ideas, a new outlook and bags of enthusiasm.
But for others they bring with them fears of the wrong attitude, untested communication skills, and an ability to take up a huge amount of time and money they just do not have.
So who is right? In some cases, it could be both.
While it has long been agreed that young people need to be better prepared for the workplace by the time they leave education, business leaders last night acknowledged they should be ready to meet them half way if they wanted to reap the benefits in years to come.
The Norwich For Jobs campaign, led by a steering group made up of representatives from the business, education and political worlds, is calling on employers in Norfolk to help halve the number of 18 to 24-year-olds in the Norwich area claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance by the end of 2014.
But in order to achieve those ambitious aims, businesses, young people and the team behind the campaign need to work together to overcome some of the concerns that can deter employers from taking on a young worker.
The greatest of those concerns, according to Norfolk Chamber of Commerce chief executive Caroline Williams, is the time and money they will take out of the company before they start putting anything in.
She said: “Businesses have already had to trim back their staff numbers through this really challenging economic time. They have stretched themselves, as far as resources are concerned, and they have a lot less people working for them than they did.
“When you have a young person who is inexperienced, they do take a lot of resources initially. You can’t leave them to get on with it. You have to tell them how. You almost lose half a person rather than gaining a person until they have amassed that experience.”
At a time when budgets are tight and companies need to work as efficiently as possible, it is an understandable concern.
But Chris Starkie, (pictured) programme director for the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said that did not necessarily mean employers would – or should – automatically rule out a young worker.
While businesses have a reasonable expectation that prospective employers should meet a basic standard of skills when they first arrive, they do not expect the finished product.
“Every business should be investing in their staff so this is part of the process. It’s about finding a balance,” he said.
But even when employers are able to put the time and money into arming a young workforce with the right job-specific skills, they remain concerned that those teenagers and young adults will lack the basic skills needed in a workplace.
Inappropriate clothes, communication skills more suited to instant messaging on Facebook than talking to a customer in person, and assuming a quick ‘sorry, Miss’ will excuse their poor punctuality are never going to go down well with a boss.
But while some horror stories do exist, Mr Starkie, who feared some employers may have been put off by a bad experience in the past, said many young people were far more prepared than businesses sometime expected.
“There’s a perception barrier. Their fears are often greater than the reality,” he said. “There are some anecdotal examples of young people not turning up on time, sitting in the office and texting all day when they should be focused on work. But most people are focused and eager to get on in the workplace.
“It is a two-way process. Businesses need to give young people a chance to prove they have all the necessary skills and young people need to realise that work is different from being in college or school.”
The Norfolk Chamber of Commerce said overcoming those fears and taking a risk on a young person was ultimately worth it.
Caroline Williams said: “They are the ones with the new ideas, the ones with the can-do attitude, and the ones that can make a difference.”
But she said businesses and young people needed to talk to each other to try to work out what each group really needed and how realistic their expectations were.
“The majority of young people we meet do want to do well,” she said. “They don’t say ‘I want to do a bad job today’. We have to explain better as a business community what we mean by a work etiquette, what we mean by the right attitude. It’s as much on us to explain it properly.”
Last night Ann Steward, cabinet member for economic development at Norfolk County Council, said the authority’s Apprenticeships Norfolk initiative could offer grants of between £1,500 and £10,000 to help buinesses take on apprentices aged 16 to 24. She added: “I would urge employers to look to the future and consider the benefits young people can bring to their business.”
To get involved with the Norwich For Jobs campaign, go to www.norwichforjobs.org.uk or email email@example.com
Don’t miss the chance to find your perfect job by visiting Archant Norfolk’s Jobs Fair at Norwich City Football Club on Thursday, March 7, 9am-6pm. Admission and car parking are free. For more details, contact Alison White on 01603 772115 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org