In the week in which thousands of local GCSE students received their exam results a business-education charity has set out to challenge the perceived wisdom that school leavers lack the basic skills and right attitude for the workplace.
Career Academies UK helps bridge the gap between employers and socially disadvantaged students and consulted 100 senior managers in 85 companies about their experiences of working with 16-19 year olds.
Sponsored by Santander, the study identified seven key benefits for employers, which roughly divided into two groups; personal benefits to employees involved in working with young people and commercial benefits to the organisations themselves.
With 1 million young people out of work, employers’ perceptions of young people are a major hurdle to employment.
The CBI reports 81 per cent of small and medium sized businesses are not confident that school leavers possess the right level of employability skills.
The CIPD says poor careers advice and a lack of support leaves young people with little understanding of the world of work and how to improve their chances of finding a job.
But the research showed if employers made the effort to engage with young people, companies become better connected with their communities and customers, improved their marketing to young people and opened up new talent streams.
A whopping 75 per cent of respondents stated professional development of the staff involved was a key benefit of engaging with young people: “We learn new skills; young people are digital natives”, was one comment.
Some 70 per cent felt increased employee morale was another reason to open their doors, an opinion shared by businesses irrespective of their size.
“Nurturing young talent is a real feel good factor, it gives us a huge boost in corporate morale,” said one interviewee.
But only 20 per cent of the employers surveyed had recruited a young person as a direct result of engaging with the Career Academies UK programme with one employer estimating a saving in recruitment costs in excess of £100,000.
David Walker, Career Academies UK head of policy, said: “The message is clear. Once they come to know them, employers value young people and are struck by their enthusiasm and energy levels.
“What is missing is the connectivity between the two. The time has never been more important for businesses to access this untapped talent pool.”