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The Experience Gap

Any 16-24 year old who is classed as not in employment, education or training (aka NEETS) will know the many hardships of trying to get a job in the current economic climate.

This month’s unexpected unemployment rise has shown that 20.2% – that’s one in five – young people are NEETs.

The hardships that young people are facing in the labour market are well documented- intense competition, a lack of the specific training or skills, unavailablitly of steady or even full time jobs- and what I believe is the biggest barrier of all- and is one which is the fault of employers…

And that is the words on a job application every NEET dreads to hear- ‘Must have prior experience’.

And it’s not like experience is easy to come by. Whilst a NEET myself last month, I tried to get some work experience in the press department at my local council. It was July- and they had no available space until early 2012.

Fair enough, the media is a highly competetive industry and a highly popular one too, but this is just one example of how competetive it is to find work- even when you’re willing to work for free.

And then work experience comes with its own price. If you are relying on benefits, they could be cut if work experience means you are not able to go for interviews, or work too many hours, or are therefore unable to start a paid job immediately.

You may incur travel, accommodation or lunch costs, and it will leave you out of pocket.

And this is only if you are lucky enough to get a place.

This is therefore unfair on many young people who are from poorer backgrounds or people whose parents choose not to financially support them- those with the means to work for free to build up experience can, those without cannot, thus creating a depressing catch-22 cycle.

I believe that employers could easily enough train an enthusiastic and motivated young person for a job and that they could become a just as good, and in many instances better, member of their staff.

Rather than being lazy and only asking for people with prior experience, they could be really benefitting not only their business, but the life of a young person and society in general.

I understand training also comes with a financial cost, but if a person is productive and chooses to stay with the company a long time then it is money well spent.

Through only asking for people with proir experience I believe businesses are losing a proportion of people who could be great at the job- and that perhaps a fresh outlook could help them be more successful.

I also believe that schools should help more, by changing work experience, having more of it, and organising it later in your school career. With a rise in tuition fees many people won’t be seeing university as an option, so should have some serious guidance as to what they want to do career-wise at a younger age.

I believe that sixth forms and colleges should also organise more work experience placements and volunteer schemes, and should advise their students better on how to get competetive placements, too.

Whilst I was jobless I saw lots of jobs I felt I could have been great at, but was rejected because of a lack of experience. And I’ve had lots of other work experience, in all kinds of different jobs. And good A-levels. And a good degree.

Even the brightest, most motivated and talented candidates will struggle to find work at the moment, and it doesn’t look like the situation will improve any time soon. More opportunities for junior and trainee positions would certainly offer hope for more young people.

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About charisscottholm

I'm a recent graduate currently working in news production. Hope you find my blogs, features and comment pieces interesting and entertaining.

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