In what has been dubbed the Great resignation, 2021 saw an unprecedented number of the European workforce hand their notices in ahead of the festive break. Whilst much of the discussion has focused on why employees are leaving, we must also consider the roles that have now been left vacant.
Companies across the continent are witnessing major skills gaps within their organisation, which in theory should have created a buyer’s market for prospective employees. However, despite the burgeoning skills gap, youth unemployment remains perilously high. Across Europe alone, over 3 million people under the age of 25 remain unemployed, a staggering increase of 438,000 in the last 2 years.
This poses a serious question. Why are companies failing to recruit the best and brightest?
Before companies look to recruit young people, we need to ensure they’re as prepared as possible for the application process, interview stages and the job at hand. According to JA Europe’s latest report, over half of students with limited opportunities are concerned for their future and readiness of work.
Many of these students from underrepresented backgrounds will not be familiar with how to draft a CV or interview practice. Sadly, these young people are not being offered the same opportunities as those from privileged backgrounds or those whose parents have the experiences to help.
A failure in preparation will lead to one thing, a widening of the unemployment gap for underrepresented groups, and an entrenchment in attainment levels between disadvantaged and privileged groups.
However, this work will be lost if there isn’t an equal amount of collaboration from businesses and their recruitment processes. Companies need to ensure their hiring processes are updated. If they’re using recruitment styles that they used five years ago, they’re unlikely to succeed in hiring the best young talent. Hiring processes need to reflect changing times with the focus on being more inclusive and recognising the diversity of the candidates.
In practice, this ranges from writing inclusive job descriptions using gender neutral language to having a careers website that is accessible for all, using dyslexia-friendly fonts and colour contrast standards.
Blind hiring has also gained popularity as an inclusive recruitment process in which candidates are reviewed on their abilities rather than their personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds. However, this hinges on us preparing young people with limited opportunities before the hiring stage so they’re on an equal playing field with their peers.
The pandemic has accelerated the skills gap emerging amongst young people, however, businesses have also had to transform throughout the last 24 months and as such have emerging skills gaps of their own.
Skillsets once required by employers are unlikely to match those needed by companies now. Just as we are seeing a shift in the background and demographics of candidates, however, there skillsets are also constantly evolving. In a hyper-digital world, young people are now, more than ever, become more proficient in digital tasks such as design, SEO and digital marketing. Whilst these skills have not always been as desirable to employers, they are now becoming crucial and ensure that businesses can continue to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace.
However, adapting to change can be challenging and many companies do not have the capability or understanding to hire people with these skillsets. A practical way of implementing this would be to have systems in place to map the existing skills of current employers. By doing so, you can ensure that people are not just hired but retained in areas they are right for.
The divide between unemployment and mass job vacancies has undoubtedly been worsened by the pandemic but rather than waiting for pre-pandemic levels to return, we need to focus on recovery and the ‘Great Rehiring’. Whilst young people have had their education and work readiness disrupted, they’ve also gained some valuable transferable skills through online programmes, training and workshops.
The pandemic has presented companies with a real opportunity to leverage the skillsets developed by young people for a digital age. If companies want to attract top talent form a range of diverse backgrounds, then it is imperative that they tailor their hiring practices and knowledge to the skills that young people possess.