Youth employment: A changing landscape

Emily Goldhill and Aishat Ola-Said look at some tips for successful youth employment.

As a new school year begins, there are lots of reasons to be talking about youth employment: GCSE and A-Level results; university clearing, apprenticeships starting, freshers’ week and most recently, the opening of grad scheme applications.

It’s clear the world young people live in has changed significantly but the way young people are recruited, whether through grad schemes or other channels, doesn’t seem to have changed at all.

The world for young people today is full of uncertainty. They can’t remember life before austerity and are the first generation to grow up knowing that their life is going to be harder than their parents. They know they’ll face stiff competition to get a job and the path to securing their perfect career will be full of challenges.

Although young people are often perceived as flighty in mainstream media, they are in fact looking for security, stability and belonging. They are not all the job hoppers some would have us believe.

But young people today are also presented with an abundance of opportunities thanks to the Internet. They are the screenagers who’ve never known a time when they can’t quickly get the answer to almost any question. They are able to express themselves in more ways than ever before, explore new interest areas and learn things in a different, more accelerated way.

Young people are constantly balancing uncertainty with opportunity and this balancing act has fundamentally transformed how they think and behave, especially when it comes to what they are looking for from a job.

So what should employers be looking to provide now to attract the best talent?

Provide flexibility

Young people no longer want to be defined by their careers because they have so much more going on in their lives. They are designers, entrepreneurs, activists, coders, producers, community managers and so much more.

Young people want an employer who gives them the flexibility to pursue these side hustles and who understands that they have passions outside of work that they are not willing to sacrifice as they define who they are.

The fact that young people are many different things at once also means they struggle to know what career they want to pursue. This isn’t surprising when you consider the fact that the average retirement age continues to go up (set to be 66 in 2020). Young people want careers that provide flexibility to explore different avenues.

Create a culture to belong to

Although young people are often perceived as flighty in mainstream media, they are in fact looking for security, stability and belonging. They are not all the job hoppers some would have us believe.

In fact, when given the chance, they will move on and move up within the same organisation because like the generations before them, they want the security of full-time work to ensure they can maintain their standard of living.

Unlike previous generations however, having the opportunity to advance is not enough. Young people also need to feel as though they are connected to the business’ culture . Adidas is an excellent example of a brand putting culture at the heart of its recruitment.

It boldly states ‘we’re not just a company, we’re a movement’ explicitly letting young people know that working for them is going to feel like more than a job. It’s going to feel like you are a part of something bigger.


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What is also important is being able to offer today’s young people a sense of belonging by giving them ownership over projects as well as independence by giving them clear career progression. 

Ensure they can create impact

Young people want to be able to afford their standard of living but their monthly paycheck isn’t the only thing that motivates them. Young people today are incredibly driven by purpose. A staggering 87% believe the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance [1]. They want to believe they can make an impact on the world in some way whether it’s contributing positively to society or making something that their friends and family will hear of and use.

Red Bull is a good example of a business that is motivated by the impact it can make. It has been open in its belief that profit is not the company’s motivator but instead, chasing the potential to be able to have ideas and make them come to life.

Young people will continue to balance the tensions between the macro uncertainties and the opportunities the internet provides for the foreseeable future. Therefore, businesses need to recognise these three insights into what young people want from employment if they are attract young talent moving forward.

About the author

Emily Goldhill, is a strategist and Aishat Ola-Said is youth progression manager at Livity


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