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OPINION: Struggle for ‘snowflakes’ to find work is a serious problem in the UK

PUBLISHED: 18:27 11 December 2019 | UPDATED: 16:12 12 December 2019

Highly qualified men and women in their late teens and early 20s are struggling to find suitable work, which is a big problem in this country, says Rachel Moore

Highly qualified men and women in their late teens and early 20s are struggling to find suitable work, which is a big problem in this country, says Rachel Moore

Archant

Don’t be so hard on the youth of today, says Rachel Moore, they’re often hampered in their hunt for worthwhile employment by a lack of help, feedback or appreciation of their skills

Despondent, demoralised, dejected and dismissed - just a few of the words young people use to describe how they are made to feel every day by potential employers.

Depressed dropped into the list too.

At a time when our young people are reportedly the unhappiest ever, bright, ambitious, well-prepared and qualified school, college and university leavers recount experiences of applying for dozens of jobs, apprenticeships and training roles - more than 100 in some cases - and barely receiving as much as an acknowledgement for their interest.

In the last two weeks, I've spent time with 17, 19, 21 and 23-year-olds, all with a clear idea of what they want to do, have gone to the effort and, in graduate and post-graduate cases, the expense, to get qualified to do it, but are treated shoddily and shabbily by businesspeople who should know better.

Their stories made me feel ashamed and quite sick about how badly my generation treats those they condemn as "snowflakes" and "kidults" living at home and having to relying on the Bank of Mum and Dad.

Employers are quick to fire shots at young people; for their 
life skills, common sense, numeracy, literacy and not being hardened to life's realities.

I'd beg to differ. The young people I meet, at work and socially, are focused on what they want to do, have planned how to do it, work hard and endeavour to 
build life skills to meet the needs of a workforce, but are disillusioned by the adults deciding if they should be part 
of it.

Last week, I met two new apprentices, aged 17 and 19. 
They had known they wanted to work offshore for years - both their fathers worked in the offshore energy industry - and 
had shaped their qualifications 
to meet their ambition, completing electrical courses at college.

Both had made more than 30 applications to businesses enquiring about opportunities, applying for apprenticeship vacancies and asking for work experiences.

But they received only two or three replies. No email acknowledgements, no phone calls, no feedback on their applications and no interviews.

Applications met with silence was these young people's first experience of job hunting and the "real world."

The "real world" employers are so quick to quote is giving young people a shock, but not in the way they smugly believe it should.

They are shocked by the rudeness, poor manners and ignorance of the people they hope to offer their skills to and learn from.

Buoyed up by their parents, persuading them to keep going and be hopeful, these two persevered over and over again, sending letters and applications into a black abyss, wondering if they would ever get a chance to meet anyone in the industry they wanted to work in face-to face.

Eventually, they struck lucky and became the first apprentices for a global business in the offshore wind industry - the fastest-growing industry in 
their community - and are on a training programme designed especially for them.

These young men were articulate, well-prepared, engaged with their chosen industry and a credit to any work force.

Yet their treatment had left a bad taste. How long does it take to send a feedback email to a young person, or make a quick call to give guidance and pointers?

Isn't it the responsibility of an employer, or anyone in a role of recruiting to reply and help guide potential new recruits into the world of work?

At a recent event, a third-year university student told a similar story. Hundreds of letters seeking a year's work placement for his engineering degree met with silence.

He was losing hope when he found a place with an offshore wind developer that values the skills and contributions of young people and rewards them for their time, believing experts don't have to be old. Young people can be experts too.

A 23-year-old I know has just completed an unpaid internship - something that would be illegal, if I had my way. How dare big business take a young person's skills, enthusiasm and time for free.

Internships are also elitist; the preserve of the well-off because the Bank of Mum and Dad has to fund that young person while they give away their skills, and their hope.

Immoral in the utmost, especially if young people are filled with hope that working for free will open the door to paid work. It rarely does. Employers wave a dejected young person on their way to unemployment while welcoming in another bright-eyed 'intern' full of ideas to work her or his socks off for free for three months.

Shame on them.

This young man is now facing the New Year jobless after volunteering, racking up experience with two companies, funding a master's degree on top of his first-class degree but not a glimmer of encouragement for a job.

It happens in the part-time job market too. Employers who 'try out' young people in pubs and restaurants and shops, only to take on people with "more experience" without doing the decent thing to take five minutes explaining how they could improve and offer pointers for 
the future.

Mental health is a big issue, especially among young males.

Employers are not helping or taking their responsibilities seriously. They must do better.


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