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, the specialist awarding organisation for industry qualifications.

Almost half (48.2 per cent) said the availability of older, experienced candidates who are unemployed made them less likely to offer opportunities to school leavers. And over a fifth (21.4 per cent) said the rise in out-of-work graduates has had the same effect.  

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 per cent 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.

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 quarter of 2011. * 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. **

In response, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced £126million 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.

“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.  It sends completely the wrong message to people at an age when we should be nurturing and encouraging their ambitions as well as developing their experience and skills.

“We urge providers with industry links to come forward and bid for funding, to help provide a pathway for young people to enter the workplace and go on to further training. We also hope to see industry employers taking advantage of the wider incentives in the Youth Contract to encourage recruitment and work experience.

“As well as considering further measures to reverse these worrying trends, 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.”

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