Could Tech Solve Youth Unemployment? We Will Only Know If We Give Young People A Chance

Despite the number of unemployed people in the UK dropping to the lowest rate since 1975, politicians and business leaders are always searching for new ways to tackle youth unemployment.

Recent government statistics highlight that nearly 11 per cent of young people (defined by the government as 16-25 year olds) who are not in full-time education are currently unemployed. Whilst this number has fallen from 12.1 per cent a year ago, there is still a lot more work to do for the legislators and key decision-makers in our society to get young people into the world of work.

Could tech be the key to this? The introduction of new and innovative technology in recent years has certainly made the workplace far more attractive to today’s tech-savvy youth. This particular demographic, also known as “millennials” or “generation Y” are well accustomed to the use of technology in every aspect of their daily lives. Having grown up during the birth and exponential growth of technology such as social networks and smartphones, they now comprise a staple of their day-to-day lives.

By being well-practiced in using this technology, and enjoying the benefits that come with it, they can seamlessly perform tasks that previously required considerable effort, but can now be carried out at the touch of a button. Requesting goods and services, talking to friends on the other side of the world via a mobile phone app, or acquiring new skills and expertise on the go through digital e-books and courses are now second nature to them.

A much-loved soundbite of politicians, especially in the run up to a general election (as we are currently experiencing in the UK), is that we are facing a “digital skills crisis”. This is despite the fact that these emerging technologies are becoming increasingly available to consumers on a daily basis and that the UK is pulling ahead of the rest of Europe in terms of its tech investment, attracting £28bn since 2011, compared with the likes of £11bn in France and £9.3bn in Germany.

Technology is not only boosting investment – a recent report from Tech City UK has found that the industry’s contribution to the economy as a whole is valued at £103,000 per year in terms of Gross Value Added compared to the £50,000 contribution of non-digital workers across the UK.

Whilst these statistics are impressive for the technology sector, they do little to remedy the wider issue of youth unemployment. Recruiters also need to shoulder responsibility for the level of jargon featured in job adverts – this is having a significant effect on young people’s employment prospects.

A recent study, from Business in the Community and the City & Guilds Group found that 66 per cent of young people applying to vacancies don’t even understand the kind of role they’re applying for. The study also revealed that over a third of the descriptions contained unclear and irrelevant jargon such as “SLAs”, “procurement”, “KPIs” and “mergers and acquisitions”. People in this age group (16-24) are generally applying for their first role, so to have these kind of terms thrust in adverts seems unreasonable; particularly given the likely relevance for the actual roles in question.

As the tech literate generation in this era of digital disruption, it seems nonsensical to dissuade this age group from working, simply based on the inability of recruiters to succinctly and clearly reach out to potential candidates effectively. The amount of jargon is not only preventing today’s youth applying for roles, but it is also having a detrimental impact on their confidence levels. The research in question also suggests that the jargon listed in adverts made applicants feel as though they “don’t deserve” or are “not good enough” to be considered. This is certainly not the publicly facing impression that the business community wants to present.

With the apparent ongoing “digital skills crisis” and the advanced technological understanding that young people possess, let’s try and help young people into work, rather than laying down more barriers in their way.

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