Young people are almost twice as likely to find work experience in some parts of the country than others, according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).
This means that there is a work experience “lottery”, the Commission says, fuelling much higher rates of youth unemployment in some areas.
The UKCES report, Catch 16-24: Youth Employment Challenge, found that The Humber, for example, has just 29% of employers offering work experience to build vital work-based skills. The region also has one of the highest unemployment rates in England.
The geographical disparity in employers offering work experience comes in spite of two-thirds of organisations nationally claiming that experience is critical when recruiting new staff.
One in five employers surveyed for the report say that nothing would persuade them to offer work experience.
Yet the latest batch of unemployment figures from the Office for National Statistics show that around 40% of the UK’s 1.9 million unemployed people are aged under 25.
Other areas showing a poor record for offering work experience were Cumbria, Leicester, Sheffield, Wiltshire, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.
Liverpool, Greater Birmingham and Solihull bucked the trend, all with a higher proportion of employers offering work experience, and significantly lower levels of youth unemployment.
Dame Fiona Kendrick, chief executive of Nestle UK and Ireland, and a commissioner at UKCES said: “The areas where employers are least likely to offer any form of experience of the workplace are also where youth unemployment is high, creating a catch-22 situation for young people – they cannot get the experience to get a job and they cannot get a job without the experience.”
She added that employers could interact more with schools, for example offering mock interviews, site visits and mentoring – rather than having to offer long periods where young people are photocopying or making tea.
The report also highlights that, although unemployment fell to its lowest rate in January since 2008, there are 950,000 young people found to be not in education, employment or training.
Another recent survey from the British Chambers of Commerce found that just under half of employers offered work experience, but many employers felt that some young people were unprepared for work. Marcus Mason, employment and skills policy manager, said that it was “vital that we encourage more businesses to step up to the plate”.
Katerina Rudiger, head of skills and policy campaigns at the CIPD, added: “It is crucial that young people are given as many opportunities as possible to experience the workplace first hand, and placements while at school or college are a key way to open their eyes to the world of work.
“Broad access to quality work experience opportunities, no matter what your postcode is, is an important part of ensuring the transition from education into work is a smooth one. This not only benefits young people, but also ensures that employers have access to talent with the skills that they require.”