Andrew: Jack, can you explain more about The Youth Group and what you do?
Jack: The Youth Group improves the odds for young people across the Commonwealth. We help young people get jobs, find mentors, find purpose and manage their mental health. So, it’s all the stuff that helps a young person get ready, into, and grow at work.
Andrew: Why do you think it’s harder for younger people to get into the workplace?
Jack: There are two sides to it. On one side the education system does its best to try and educate young people, but there is a lack of tangible work experience to help young people actually understand what the workplace is like. On the other side, there is a mismatch between the young person’s expectations of the workplace and employers’ expectations and no one seems to be communicating between the two. For example, a young person can really struggle to pay the travel costs to get to an interview, which puts up a barrier. Also, if they have to cross county lines from one borough to another to get to where the interview is they can be stepping into different gang territory. So, there are real grass root issues that need to be understood.
There’s also a digital divide. Employers are still using job boards to advertise vacancies for young people to upload their CV to. But a young person won’t have the experience, so a CV isn’t the best tool for them. So we need to help young people understand the expectations of the workplace and for businesses to understand young people.
Andrew: How has the situation changed since Covid-19?
Jack: There’s less opportunity, but also more opportunity. I believe that there’s more opportunity for young people to get ahead, because they do not have to travel to an interview, they can just jump on a call. Companies are now more open to working from anywhere, which suits young people, because they don’t want to be chained to a desk from 9 to 5 every day. This has opened up a whole new way of looking at things which could actually make the workplace more attractive to young people.
There’s less opportunity in the number of jobs available, but I am working with the Government on its kick-starter scheme to see how we can really provide access to young people and lower the barriers now we’ve entered this new world.
Andrew: Do you think this new world is here to stay?
Jack: Well a fundamental part of this is learning what parts need to stay, and that goes for corporates as well. So, we had a central London office, but we got rid of it. That opened up the opportunity for more people to come into the business, but also my teams were much happier as they could work in the way they were comfortable with. So, there’s fundamental things that I wish will stay, like working remotely, interviewing young people virtually, giving them a voice when it comes to joining meetings.
There’s a lot more communication happening. What I hope we will go back to, and should never lose, is one-to-one interaction with a line manager or mentor. Although digital technology is scalable and helps young people, I believe it’s also important that we still have that human-to-human interaction. It helps with mental health, communication and confidence for the young person.
Andrew: What can companies like Capita do to help?
Jack: You can do three things. You can go from having all the answers to all the questions when it comes to youth. What I mean by that is asking; ‘do you want to work from the office, or do you feel more comfortable working from home?’ Companies can be much more flexible in their questioning and give options. Young people want the choice to work from home or go into a collaboration office. Companies can also do even more when it comes to upskilling digital skills when it comes to youth. We may have another wave of the coronavirus when we hit winter, so we should be looking at ways to really maximize the opportunity to give young people all the skills they need in a meaningful way.
That’s young people internally at Capita, but also young people coming into Capita.
Thirdly, I think it’s embracing the fact that we are going into tough times but that there is opportunity. Where Capita can, it should showcase opportunity. I believe this is the time for companies to open the doors to apprenticeships even more than they are already and bring in traineeships. And, also bring in diversity of thought in a meaningful way.
Andrew: You sound quite positive about the future?
Jack: I am more confident than I was a month ago, because there are a number of schemes that have now come into play. We need to break down how the kick-start scheme works and provide access to young people, and also help corporates understand how they can help. Also, over 400 companies have come to me in the last three weeks asking what they can do to help young people, which a huge positive.
There is a caution though; companies should only take on young people because it is the right thing to do and what the business needs, rather than because there is a £2,000 grant. We need to make sure it is still authentic and that there is meaningful engagement. Otherwise, we are just kicking the can down the road.