It’s great that our UK youth unemployment rate has been falling, and that it is significantly lower than the EU average.
It’s also great that we have a strong programme of apprenticeships, and the emphasis on vocational training has increased. This widens opportunities, especially for those we are more vocational and technical. This is fabulous work by the government and champions such as Robert Halfon MP over the last 9 years.
However, at 11.5% youth unemployment is still too high. And not all apprenticeships are as good as others (I’ve heard of quite a few through family and friends where there is no training and therefore opportunities). And one area has been significantly neglected. That of graduate opportunities.
Let me give you an example. A young man who I know through a friend. He graduated from university with a respectable degree in computer science. He can programme computers. He understands computers and IT. He is a hard worker. But he has been unable to get a job in the computer or technology industry. He’s been working in the past few years first in the restaurant trade and then as an office administrator. He’s organised and capable.
So why hasn’t he been able to get a job in the IT/ computing industry? Because there are not enough graduate recruitment programmes, and not enough companies training graduates in the technical skills they want. They don’t have to. They can advertise world-wide and get recruits from around the world through the highly skilled migrant programme and not have to give the time and expense of training graduates, who would be highly skilled themselves if they were trained after their degree in a graduate programme.
I’m definitely not against the highly skilled migrant visa programme. Heaven knows we need skilled staff and workers – like nurses. But we cannot allow this to be an excuse for employers – particularly large employers – to run graduate programmes.
One thing I would like the next government to do is to limit large employers’ recruitment of overseas staff if they do not run training programmes themselves – via apprenticeships and graduate recruitment programmes. Let’s reduce unemployment further for young Brits, but also get them the on the job training they need so that we grow our own highly skilled workforce too.