Jobs: School leavers ‘pushed to back’ of jobs queue

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A lack of employability skills is pushing school leavers to the back of the jobs queue, as demand for migrant workers reaches record levels, says a survey.

New research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) finds recruitment demand for school leavers has fallen since last year, while employer appetite for migrant workers has reached a record high.

The CIPD’s latest study on skills and migration in the Labour Market Outlook, based on a survey of more than 1,000 employers, shows demand for migrant workers has increased to a record high, with a quarter of employers now planning to hire migrant workers in the third quarter of 2011.

In response to the annual cap on non-EU migrants, more employers say they will hire EU migrant workers (34 per cent) than up-skill existing workers (23 per cent) or recruit more graduates (18 per cent). Almost one in 10 employers (8 per cent) say that they would offshore jobs abroad.

In contrast to the growing proportion of employers looking to recruit overseas workers, employers’ overall hiring intentions for young people have fallen since Spring 2010 when employers were last asked these questions in the survey.

Only 12 per cent of employers plan to hire 16-year-old school-leavers in the three months to September 2011, down from 14 per cent. Similarly, the number of employers planning to recruit school leavers aged 17-18 and above has fallen to a quarter (25 per cent) from almost a third (31 per cent) in the same period.

The number of employers planning to take on higher education leavers under the age of 24 is 38 per cent, compared to 47 per cent last year. However, the government’s efforts to boost the employment of apprentices appears to be working, with 37 per cent of respondents planning to recruit apprentices compared with 24 per cent last year.

When asked what skills the government should focus on improving to encourage more employers to recruit young people, respondents identified literacy (53 per cent) and numeracy (42 per cent), as well as employability skills, such as good customer service skills (40 per cent) and good communication skills (40 per cent).

Gerwyn Davies, Public Policy Adviser, CIPD, said: “Youth unemployment looks set to rise further amid employer concerns about the employability of young people. The migration cap is stemming the flow of skilled non-EU migrant workers on the one hand, but increasing the supply of EU workers with the other, which highlights the relative ineffectiveness of the cap in bringing net migration levels down.

“Employers seem eager to take full advantage of this, to make use of their positive attitude and their skills. The perception among many of our members is that too many young people in the UK do not have these qualities, which may explain why fewer young people are being hired.

“At a time when many school-leavers will be looking for work and the number of job opportunities is falling, youth unemployment could increase more sharply in the coming months. The government therefore needs to redouble efforts to ensure the education and skills system is fit for purpose to ensure young people can find a foothold in an increasingly competitive jobs market.

“The CIPD is actively supporting a number of initiatives to try and boost the number of employers that offer work experience, apprenticeships and internships to help young people get to the first rung of the employment ladder.”