It is reasonable to say, given the current economic state of the nation, all is clearly not well and all is not fair in the UK either. The phrase the “State of the Nation” is sadly a rather apt phrase . . .
One issue that is a recurring problem is that of skills shortages. We are hearing some mixed messages just now from industry, and within the oil and gas sector in particular;
On one hand, skills shortages are coming back on to the agenda with increasing regularity.
In contrast, there remains an abundance of debt ridden, bright, unemployed yet potentially very capable graduates and also school leavers looking for their first break into a new industry.
Despite age legislation being introduced a few years back which was aimed at reducing “experience-ism”, in practice employers are still looking for “2-5 years minimum experience” before they even consider an application for most roles. Although they would never admit to this publicly, of course . . .
So it is a Catch 22 for those new to the job market and looking for their first break – you can’t get a job to gain experience and without experience you can’t get a job…
So what’s the solution?
I guess there is no one single solution to a huge problem. One idea I think might help some of these people would be to put them through a fast track apprenticeship. These could be open to anyone who is unemployed, regardless of age, experience or qualifications and would be subject to a simple selection process to ensure potential suitability for the proposed apprenticeship they are applying for; No point doing an Accounting Apprenticeship if you cant count . . .
The simple aim of this is to get as many people in Britain working again and, while doing so, build their practical skills in business, communication, problem solving and such like. The critical element is that this would give them actual, hands-on work experience, help give them a focus and purpose in life, which in turn greatly improves their self esteem. Not to mention the economic benefits that could be gained by turning the unemployed masses into productive employees.
Depending on the complexity of a particular role, a fast track apprenticeship placement could run for something between 6 and 18 months, possibly longer for roles that require more technical skills or knowledge.
Obviously traditional apprenticeships still have a significant role in industry and provide an essential entry point into the energy sector. Fast track apprenticeships would not replace these but supplement them. For example, I am not aware of any organisation in the UK that runs an apprenticeships for business/commercial type roles.
Fast track apprentices would be paid above minimum wage levels to encourage and incentivise people to take part. The government would subsidise placements up to the equivalent value of unemployment benefit, with the remainder topped up by businesses themselves. The obvious benefits being individuals get back into gainful employment and employers get a valuable and very cost effective resource. A win-win.
Funds used to finance the programme could be drawn down directly from corporation tax rather than income tax, so in effect, British businesses would be funding this rather than individual taxpayers. I’d personally be willing to pay a small, voluntary contribution on our corporation tax, say 0.25 to 0.5%, as an opt in tax if I thought this would help solve some of the unemployment issues in the UK. Perhaps opt in companies could even be publicly recognised and promoted in some way?
I am sure the vast majority of people/businesses in the UK would much rather pay tax to support a programme like this than seeing billions “wasted” on unemployment benefit within our overly “Welfare State”. An alternative might be that participating companies fully fund their placements but instead given a small discount on corporation tax.
So, assuming our new apprentice starts and is making good progress, and a job offer arises. They could either opt out of the apprenticeship as soon as they manage to secure permanent employment or see this to a close, which may actually be better for long term skills development and for their own long term employment prospects. There is every chance that their first job could well be with the company they are with and a “try before you buy” approach makes a lot more sense from a recruitment perspective.
Fast track apprenticeships are clearly not right for everyone nor every organisation, but would be a great option for school leavers, graduates and those seeking to retrain.
The net cost to the government would be no different to current levels of unemployment benefit paid out but would create an “army” of new recruits who finally get a chance to gain some relevant and productive work experience and make themselves more employable in the process.
The Charity sector could be provided with 100% Government funding or have placements sponsored by large companies. A small incremental cost perhaps, but surely better to have people being productive and helping the “big society” than being unemployed and making no contribution to the nations wellbeing?
So what would the outcome of all this be?
In a couple of years time, we would have a raft of experienced, capable people, many of whom could well be retained as employees with the organisations they have their apprenticeship with. At very least they would be significantly more employable and have a much better chance of securing work.
The end result? Hopefully a great outcome: Great people, helping great businesses and taking a great big step towards becoming Great Britain again.
The Urquhart Partnership Ltd