Survey says young people behind the reality curve? We say “build it and they will come!”

It’s fascinating to read a recent study suggesting that as youth unemployment reaches a new high, 14-15 year old people’s career aspirations don’t match requirements for economic growth.

The survey claims that major British industries are facing a talent shortage unless they can shake their unattractive images. 

According to more than 1,000 young people surveyed by Magnified Learning, the jobs that are apparently essential for economic growth are “boring”:

  • Less than 3% of young people considered the environment sector – marked by Cameron as a vital industry for economic growth
  • Least popular was public transport with less than 2%of young people choosing a career in the sector
  • Just 3% showed an interest in the energy sector

Jobs in the media and creative industries may be the only sectors to score consistently well among young people approaching working age. But then I wanted to captain the England rugby team and drive for Ferrari when I was a teenager!

Chris Horton, Director of Magnified Learning, said:

“The high levels of youth unemployment are alarming, but even more alarming is that our research shows that the industries in which there are likely to be jobs opening up for young people, are not even being considered by the vast majority of them.

“We believe tackling these negative perceptions is a two-way process, and it is important that industry leaders recognise their responsibility to engage with the next generation in order to foster new talent. It will be impossible for the UK economy to thrive if we can’t convince young Britons that such career paths are worth aspiring to.”

Of course HR functions have a part to play on the demand side of the equation. But it isn’t necessarily the one hinted at by Mr Horton.

 I’m less convinced by the traditional thinking that new talent = young talent. The bad news for these young folk is that the biggest issues we see when working with organisations currently have little to do with solely attracting fresh talent. The greatest challenge by far is re-engaging, energising and making the most of largely disengaged existing talent where investment will stay within the “family” and there will be no acquisition costs.

Once again, the call goes out to HR directors across sectors to open their eyes to the reality that the bulk of their employment brand efforts should be directed at developing truly sustainable performance cultures and liberating the potential of existing employees. Much more effective to create attractive brands from within by developing an appropriate culture and to influence perceptions of the next generation in that way than to waste time and money on external PR when the words and figures differ.

As the old saying goes “if you build it, they will come”!


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