The demise of the Saturday job and employers recruiting through word of mouth are consigning a generation of young people to unemployment or underemployment, according to a new report.
The Youth Employment Challenge published this week by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), found that youth unemployment began rising in 2005, before the economic downturn.
The report calls on every UK employer to draw up their own “youth policy” to help bring more young people into the workforce.
The study was published just days after it emerged that more than 8,000 teenagers have joined the ranks of NEETs – those not in education, employment or training – as the proportion staying on in school after 16 fell for the first time in a decade.
The number of 16 to 18-year-olds that are considered not in education, employment or training rose 5.7 per cent in a year. More than eight per cent of this age group, or 154,710 young people, were NEETs at the end of 2011 compared to 7.5 per cent or 146,430 in 2010.
The UKCES study found that in the last two to three years less than a quarter of employers had recruited school or college-leavers, and those that did reported they were well prepared for the workplace.
Teenagers who had been to college were better prepared for work than school-leavers of the same age, it said.
Word of mouth was also found to be the most common way for people to get a job, which put young people without professional networks at a disadvantage.
Furthermore, young people are getting paid less in poorer quality employment with many jobs – especially those in bars, restaurants and retail outlets – in long-term decline and forecast to stagnate further over the next decade.
The UKCES report was accompanied by a guide, Grow Your Own: How young people can work for you, to help employers support young people into work.
Charlie Mayfield, chairman of UKCES and the John Lewis Partnership, said: “We cannot afford to waste the skills and talents of a generation. Small actions can make a big difference, and things like arranging work experience placements, giving talks to young people and offering work shadowing and mentoring are just some of the ways employers can help.”
Chris Grayling, the employment minister, added: “Youth unemployment is a social and economic time bomb. The government’s Work Programme and Youth Contract wage incentive will help thousands of employers to recruit.”
But teachers’ leaders blamed government policies on the rise in the number of NEETs.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said that removing the Educational Maintenance Allowance has “prevented thousands of our most disadvantaged young people from accessing further education”. She continued: “Combined with the hike in university tuition fees and cuts to the careers service, this has effectively locked out a generation from gaining the skills and opportunities they need to succeed.”