Government must act to prevent mass youth unemployment

Measures need to be urgently implemented to avoid mass youth unemployment, and should include employers being incentivised to recruit graduates and apprentices.

The Institute of Student Employers (ISE), formerly the Association of Graduate Recruiters, has predicted that entry-level jobs will be cut by nearly a quarter this year because of coronavirus, so is calling on the government to work with employers to increase their capacity to hire young people.

ISE’s Plan for the Reconstruction of the Student Labour Market includes offering a wage subsidy for all new apprentices under 24 to cover the costs of the 20% of time that they are required to spend studying off the job.

The plan also proposes cutting national insurance contributions for staff under 24 for a year and offering an incentive to employers to create work experience opportunities. It also suggests freeing up the apprenticeship levy so that it can be spent on related costs such as recruitment, travel and management.

ISE chief executive, Stephen Isherwood said: “The labour market is breaking down. There is a looming youth unemployment crisis and employers are already facing pressure to slow down or stop entry-level recruitment and slash training costs. These decisions will disproportionately impact young people.

“Employers need support to invest in entry-level talent, to recruit and develop young people. The public purse should be used to provide opportunities for young people rather than leaving them to languish unskilled, out of work and left behind.”

Deborah McCormack, ISE chair and head of talent for Pinsent Masons said that no single measure alone would “stem the loss of a generation of talent. We need a pragmatic package of support from government to help employers and educators enable our early talent, future-proofing the UK economy.”

Jayne Rowley, head of graduate careers and employability platform Prospects at Jisc, underlined the ISE’s concern over the future of the student jobs market: “The challenge facing young people as we come out of the pandemic is enormous. It will take sustained and combined support from government, employers and educators to ensure that they have access to opportunities to begin their careers.”

Simon Reichwald, strategic lead for talent at MyKindaFuture, urged flexibility from government policy: “Smart thinking and actions around, for example, the use of the levy is an easy win for government and will support employers do what they want to which is hire more apprentices.”

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