Youth unemployment, Britain’s growing problem

Posted on 29 Feb 2012

From October to December 2011, one third of those between the age of 16 and 24 who have left education are unemployed.

One in every two young people, including those in education, had a job, a total of 3.6 million.

While the general outlook looks bleak across all sectors there is one area where the is a shortage of young people applying… manufacturing.

Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies, has released figures that show its sectors need 82,000 new engineers, scientists and technicians between now and 2016.

What is astonishing is that this need is not being met at a time when youth unemployment is sky high. Gary Jones, manufacturing director at caravan-maker Elddis, told The Manufacturer in a recent interview that he is struggling to fill two vacancies, one of which has been open for ten weeks.

Lack of skills is the number one cause of hard-to-fill UK vacancies. Following a nationwide drive to promote science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, only 4% of UK graduates choose a career in manufacturing.

Sir Anthony Bamford, chairman of digger-manufacturer JCB, concluded in his report ‘UK Manufacturing: Time to Make it Count’ that the sector needs a better image.

Male-dominated, repetitive, poorly paid and boring were just four of the negative phrases the UK’s 17-19 year-olds associate with a career in manufacturing, according to Bamford’s report.

Work with colleges and universities to create a positive image of industry, correcting the view that roles come with low pay when top engineering jobs rank in the top ten salaried jobs in the UK. Additionally, creating engineering and manufacturing apprenticeship frameworks is vital.

Philip Whiteman, chief executive of Semta, commented: “Apprenticeships will be extremely important in helping meet this recruitment need and also present an opportunity for young people looking for a valuable and rewarding career. We need to make taking on an apprentice as simple as possible for the employers.”

The ONS research highlights the youth unemployment challenge that needs to be met. Meanwhile, many businesses that are increasingly calling for new, skilled individuals and apprentices can be the solution to fill these important workforce gaps.

Young people need to be told about the opportunities in manufacturing from a young age so that they can pick and succeed in the necessary subjects to collect the skills that are currently missing, but much needed.

Reversing the male-dominated image (and the reality that it creates) will help to correct this skills gap after Office for National Statistics released data today showing that 21% of men work in skilled trades, but only 1 per cent of women.

As Sir Anthony Bamford said in his report: “Manufacturing can make the difference. The time for action is now!”