Opinion: Teenagers need training in the real world to gain a good job

People waiting for job interview

People waiting for job interview - Credit: Archant

With frightening levels of youth unemployment, you'd think employers crying out for raw young talent would have applicants queuing around the block.

But the exasperation of a frustrated employer desperate to give bright teenagers a start in her industry has been playing on my mind this week.

A social media friend who, if her Facebook and Twitter feeds are anything to go by and what I've, albeit fleetingly, witnessed in person, is brilliant fun to work for and passionate about motivating and encouraging young people.

'Why is it so hard to find a young person who wants to work and have the possibility of a career?' she asked on Facebook.

She'd had a disappointing day trying to recruit young people, with a story I've heard from numerous employers.


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A 'work experience' started on Monday and never returned after Monday lunch. The place wasn't right. He or she didn't like it – so just didn't go back.

Now, I can understand if work experience involves ripping the guts out of chickens all day, young people might feel a bit iffy after a few hours but a jolly financial services office? To walk out instantly?

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Making snap judgments, walking away to do nothing rather than sticking it out is the worst action a young person can do. Every smidgeon of experience counts today with employers demanding 'experience' from applicants.

And where were the parents, who should have been telling their teenager not to be a quitter without giving it a proper go?

No job is perfect, easy and comfy, and most don't feel right on the first day. It's about just getting on with it.

She then interviewed for an apprenticeship position – she is passionate about apprenticeships and started her own successful career as an apprentice.

She had been expecting seven interviewees, Two turned up and neither passed both the basic maths and 'follow instructions' test she set them.

Two of the cancellations had decided, without even turning up, that they didn't want to work in finance.

I'm not sure a lack of work ethic is the problem here. It's more an issue of expectation. Too many young people expect too much. They want easy jobs on their terms on decent money.

If they thought it through, they would realise that no skill is a wasted skill and everyone starts at the bottom.

What's clear here is that too many young people have no grasp of the concept of work.

We might assume – assumption is the mother of all fiascos – that 'the school' is telling them about being a good employee. They clearly don't – or young people wouldn't be thinking work is designed for their convenience.

We're so hung up on homework and exam performance, we tend to forget the real world and what comes next. Work is often hard, sometimes unpleasant. Colleagues aren't always people you would choose as friends and when you're at work, your time is your employer's time. Learn that quick and life can be hunky dory. Don't expect too much. All they need to make a go of a job is to be eager to learn, keen, punctual, chirpy, chippy and perky, smile a lot and make a lot of tea.

The summer holidays are a good time to do some 'real world' training and get teenagers out of bed before lunch. Set them chores and tasks within a time frame and offer them payment for successful completion. It could save a lot of confusion and angst in the future as well as teaching them skills for their future – and teaching them to work in a (family) team.

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