Kickstarting the upskilling journey: How to make the most of young talent

Chris Milligan discusses how employers can make the most of the UK Government’s Kickstart scheme and the talent it will attract.

Young workers are vital to our economy. That’s why the UK Government recently announced plans to kickstart young careers with a £2bn scheme that creates more jobs for young people.

A defining point

The start of a career is a defining point for lots of young people, instilling them with confidence, skills and experience that carries throughout their career journey.

Minister for Employment Mims Davies said recently that, “Those with stronger experience and wider expertise are often more able to swap into a new job, having built up transferable skills that they can use in other arenas.” These are unprecedented times, which necessitated an extraordinary Government intervention for the young workers who make up 24% of the workforce.

Looking long-term

But what happens once the six-month scheme ends? Employers who take advantage of the kickstart scheme, need to have an eye on the long-term development and employability of their young workers. It’s not enough to simply introduce someone to the world of work, they need continuous, consistent upskilling so they can provide value to their employer for many years.

Young workers are increasingly career- and purpose-driven. Having access to learning and career progression opportunities is one of the basic needs that this generation wants from a role.

Especially because the half-life of skills is decreasing, currently standing at just five years. A billion jobs will need to be reconfigured over the next ten years – and young workers will be at the forefront of this change.

Adaptability needed

Adaptability will be an essential skill for all workers in the future. Alongside the pandemic, there are added pressures from the global recession, digital transformation, and automation. All roles will be affected in one way or another – some will completely shift (30% by the mid-2030s), requiring new skills.

As we come to terms with the many ‘normals’ after this, continuous upskilling is critical. For individuals to have relevant, valuable skills, and for businesses to remain competitive and able to embrace changes.

Matching expectations

Young workers are increasingly career- and purpose-driven. Having access to learning and career progression opportunities is one of the basic needs that this generation wants from a role. When these are provided, young workers are three times more likely to stay with their first employer for five or more years.

How to upskill young workers

For employers looking to retain and upskill their young workers beyond the kickstart scheme, there are several practical ways to unlock their potential over the long-term.

  • Identify their current and future skills: assessing current skills will give an accurate starting point you can measure progress against. It’s also worth considering the skills a young worker will need in the next one to three years – just focus on a few so they don’t get overwhelmed by learning pathways and courses.
  • Align with business goals: to ensure your young workforce delivers value for the foreseeable future, align their upskilling efforts with business goals and predicted skill gaps. Match this with each worker’s goals and interests, to find the common ground where both individual and the business benefits.
  • Offer a range of learning opportunities: look at the different learning formats in your organisation. Young workers prefer social learning environments where they can access content on-demand, with low barriers to access, and where they can be more hands-on with their learning. Don’t forget about on-the-job learning and stretch assignments – 51% state that they learn best through doing a task. This will also help to reinforce learning, 75% of information learned a week before is forgotten unless it is used within the workplace.
  • Collect skills data: progress cannot be tracked without data – and you should begin collecting this as soon as a young worker starts their role. This data will be invaluable to you and them – it can populate a skills profile that follows them throughout their career as an accurate record of their abilities. For employers, this skills data can be used for more informed workforce planning, upskilling strategies, and career progression, to name but a few. Young workers particularly value measurable feedback and skills data can help them understand their strengths, address their weaknesses, and give them a reason to continuously learn.

Unparalleled opportunity

Employers have an unparalleled opportunity to recruit fresh talent into their workforce. Those that capitalise on this now, by realising the long-term value of young workers and working to build their skills, will have a clear competitive knowledge advantage. Kickstarting a decade of market leadership.


About the author

Chris Milligan is VP Career Mobility at Degreed.



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