Industry employers are less likely to recruit school leavers due to the greater availability of more qualified and experienced applicants during the unemployment crisis.
According to new research carried out on behalf of EAL, an awarding organisation for industry qualifications, almost half (48.2%) of manufacturers said the availability of older and more experienced candidates made them less likely to offer opportunities to school leavers.
The availability of highly trained staff who are unemployed has also had the same effect on out-of-work graduates, with 21.4% of industry leaders stating that opportunities were limited.
The independent survey polled 500 managing directors and those responsible for HR and training at companies ranging from micro to macro businesses. In engineering and manufacturing – one of the government’s priority sectors for economic growth – almost 70% of employers reported a negative impact on opportunities for young people as a result of current trends.
Construction and building services were the industries least affected, with around half of respondents saying their stance towards school leavers has been unchanged by the availability of graduate or adult jobseekers.
According to the latest labour market report from the Office for National Statistics, overall UK unemployment reached a 17 year high of 2.67million from October to December 2011.
The findings come after statistics published in February by the Department for Education showed that 178,000 young people in England aged between 16 and 18 were considered not in employment, education or training (NEETs) during the last three months of 2011.
Recent research from the sector skills council Semta highlighted the need for almost 100,000 new engineers and scientists to replace those retiring over the next four years in order to deal with the future skills shortage in the UK.
The Government has introduced a range of incentives to influence employers into hiring more young people despite the recession, which includes funding thousands of apprenticeships, but these figures show a lack of desire to take on younger, less experienced staff.
In response, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced £126m of new funding to get unemployed school leavers into work or training as part of the Government’s Youth Contract scheme.
Ann Watson, managing director of EAL, said: “These findings are a stark reminder of the long-term dangers this country faces if the jobs crisis isn’t resolved. The engineering and manufacturing industry, especially, is already facing a real challenge to develop the skilled employees needed for the future, as existing staff approach retirement age.”
Ms Watson added: “To think that young people could leave school with a desire to explore careers in these vital sectors, only to find their way blocked by a lack of opportunity brought on by the current climate, is a guaranteed way to discourage them for life. We must keep a close watch on schemes like the Youth Contract to ensure they have an impact where they are most needed. If not, and we find a whole generation turns its back as a result, the long term effects on industry skills could be catastrophic.”