Ignore Youth, Destroy The Economy?

I hate to sound all Michael Jackson, but children, they’re the future, man.

Yes, they are. The sad thing is that despite the roaring job market, we’re still not employing them at a rate that would be healthy to our economy. In the UK, 737,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are classified as unemployed. That’s 16.2% — and in Europe the problem gets worse. In Spain, the figure has touched 57%.

The employment market is not dissimilar from the housing market. If you don’t let people onto the bottom rung of the ladder, houses at the top become harder to shift. The market stagnates, and progress suffers. In the jobs market, there are a host of consequences, which I’ll look at in this piece — but first, as if you need convincing, the advantages of youth.

Why You Should Hire More Young People

If you’re like me, you’ve more or less accepted that you’re not “young” anymore. It’s taken a while, but you’ve gotten there. You’ve acquired the battle scars of (approximately) 15-20 years in full employment, you’ve acquired your ways of working, and you’re part of the system.

Remember when you were younger and you had more ideas? More of a rebellious spirit in you? You need some of that.

Youth Is Innovation

It’s a hackneyed idea — perhaps a cliche. Yet, it’s a well-worn cliche for a good reason. As I progress into my 40s (next year, if you don’t mind), I find myself relying on younger people for that creative spark, for those ideas that will spark a campaign.

What I get is an alternative worldview. What I can do is take that, shape it, and put it into a framework that I know will work, and produce results for our clients.

The first step — if you’re anything like me — is to accept that you don’t know everything, and you never will. You can learn, and you can run to catch up, but when the ideas start to dry up, there are plenty of people who have good ideas.

Without innovation, you lose your competitive edge. In other words, if you don’t have someone to push your worldview out of shape and make you think differently, you’ll always think the same way, and that’s not good business. Someone else will be doing the thinking, and they’ll be somewhere else.

Youth Moves People Up

Just like in the housing market, movement is a good thing. Whereas people tend to move houses once every seven years, people move jobs at a much quicker rate — often within an organization, either being promoted or moved sideways.

Change is a constant, and people expect it. The last thing your people want is to stay in the same position for seven years, with the same salary and the same prospects. Without the feed of employees at the bottom of the ladder, longer-serving employees may feel that they have come to the end of their time with you.

If everyone wants to progress, it stands to reason that there is someone at the bottom of the ladder, learning the ropes. And this may be a little bit Karate Kid (wipe on, wipe off), but someone has to do the “churn.”

In order to bring about progress for your existing employees, you need to refresh at the bottom end of your organization; otherwise they’ll feel stuck, and eventually find that progression elsewhere.

But … Youth Brings Responsibility

It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that youth unemployment reduces — and that we get the best out of young people in the workplace. There is no way of nurturing talent unless we’re bringing people through, teaching them the ropes, and giving them the opportunities they desire. Those opportunities may not be framed in the way we know them; research clearly shows that Millennials desire more ethical outcomes at work, and actively seek roles that are morally sound.

Managing talent is multi-faceted, but over the last few years we appear to have forgotten the bottom end of the funnel, and we’ve stopped giving young people the chances they need. That needs to change, and there are incentives for you as an employer to turn that around.

The apprenticeships scheme, for instance, allows employers to take on a student, at a low cost, and train him or her up while they are studying. This has an extra edge over internships, where the intern can “come and go as her or she pleases” — because you are offering a fixed position.

If governments are encouraging us to get involved, we should. I, for one, will be looking at the apprenticeships scheme here in the UK, and I actively encourage others to do so too. We all have to do our bit — and I’m convinced that we’ll all do better as a result.

About the Author: Gareth Cartman is a marketer with a background in HR. As an employer, he is fascinated by talent development and management. As a Dad, it’s the same, but more stressful.

photo credit: Waag Society via photopin cc

It’s Time For A New Job-Skills Training Model

I attended a presentation by Mary Owens at a local financial advisory firm. In her well-presented talk about the return of manufacturing to the U.S., she articulated a number of facts that got me thinking:

  • Manufacturing was returning because North American fuel (read: natural gas) is now becoming cheaper than the combination of diesel and Asian labor.
  • U.S. factories are utilizing the most advanced technologies.
  • And last, we can put millions of people to work.

This is good news, right? I think so. But we still have a major gap in fulfilling the training that these factories need. She described quite succinctly these additional points that I have been thinking a lot about:

  • Many industries are beginning to (re)grow, and they are using new technologies to do it.
  • In many industries, employers can’t find “locked and loaded” employees who have the skills to perform the jobs they need filled.
  • The current higher education and vocational system isn’t serving the employment needs of employers or job seekers.

Mary’s plea, as I understand it, is to invite the wealth community to invest in an educational system to feed these employers’ needs. I like Mary’s pluck. She is not the first to say it or practice it. It makes sense to see the need and fill it.

But … not so fast. Since writing about workplace apprenticeship a few weeks ago, I’ve continued to ruminate about these additional convergent problems:

  1. Trade schools and career colleges, while making a comeback, are not prolific enough to be a relevant source of fulfillment for these factory and other supporting jobs.
  2. Higher education has too many of the wrong students and isn’t coming close to fulfilling its pledge to any students or fulfilling its own historical role.
  3. Job seekers can no longer afford to create the debt that higher education is demanding.
  4. The public can no longer afford to support this Herculean effort in the form of needed government subsidies.
  5. Employers want to shift responsibility away from themselves and blame everything else—from schools to generational birth year, from government to parents.

If business wants “locked and loaded” workers, then where should it get them?

In his post, “How Education Is Failing To Serve Business’ Needs,”  Mark Lukens  discusses this very topic. His analysis of the raging debate about education not serving humanity’s need to think creatively is extremely relevant. To that point, I agree.

Then he says,

“If the education system is to serve the needs of business, then we need to start by asking what those needs are.”

 Ugh. I cringe. Education should not be the bitch of business. Education should be its own system and its own reward. And yes, I agree, it should shift its focus to help us to learn the needed skill of creative thinking; however, I envision a world where we get to learn for a variety of reasons, at a variety of times, and not always for job skills.

This bears the question, “Where do we learn the skills needed for a rewarding job?”

The answer keeps pointing me to employers. If they are the ones with the needs and they want a consistent, customizable result, then it is on their shoulders.

I believe that it is time for a new model. A model of efficiency and fairness. Let’s take the burden off of higher-learning institutions and the public. Let’s take the financial burden off of the individual as well. Let’s institute a model that allows business to serve itself. The model would allow people with the right behavior profiles to enter into paid apprenticeships to learn the absolute needed skills, aptitudes, and values needed by the employer.

We have hundreds of years of history filled with examples of an apprenticeship model. The last 100-plus years have taken us off track and placed the “burden” elsewhere. I expect that employers are going to rebel against this responsibility. But when they see that it actually MAKES them money through efficiencies rather than turnover costs, possibly the whining will stop.

I envision higher education rebelling because it will see its head count retreat. But it is time to stop the churn of unsuccessful, unhappy, and broke students overfilling our colleges and universities. It is only in the last 50 years that “everyone” went to college. Now “everyone” doesn’t get a result. So let’s stop it.

If we are to get out of our current morass, grab opportunity by the nose, and get back to work, it is time for employers to see themselves as training organizations. Profitable training organizations.

The future of work is dependent upon it.


photo credit: Tweek via photopin cc