In my role as employment minister I am determined to do everything I can to give young people the chance to get a good start to their careers.
A key part of this is working with businesses, and encouraging them to open their doors to young people - to provide the training and work experience opportunities they need.
It’s not just the young people who benefit from this. By providing training and showing young people the range and quality of jobs available in their sector, businesses are building the workforce of their future.
As I’m sure you’ll know, the food and grocery industry is the UK’s biggest employer, so it was particularly welcome news that, through the Feeding Britain’s Future campaign, 15,000 aspirational young people were given the chance to gain an insight into the industry and develop the skills necessary to get a job.
“The young people I met were amazed by the range of jobs on offer”
The nationwide campaign - run by the IGD in partnership with Jobcentre Plus - ran throughout September. More than 160 businesses got involved, from all sections of the supply chain.
The campaign followed a successful pilot last year, after which 98% of those surveyed said that they felt more confident about applying for a job. This year’s campaign built on that success.
Young people taking part in FBF heard first-hand from industry experts what makes successful applicants stand out.
As well as workshops and interview sessions with HR managers, young people were given the opportunity to try practical jobs, enabling them to develop their skills.
I went to an event held at Intersnack’s factory in Stanley, Co Durham, as part of FBF and was really inspired to see so many enthusiastic young people engaging with the workshops.
Opening your doors opens people’s minds. The young people I met were amazed by the range of different jobs on offer at the factory - from marketing to production and accounting. Experiences such as these help make it real for young people. They hear what is needed and what is on offer from businesses directly.
Campaigns like FBF are really important, but it’s also important that businesses think long term about the benefits of giving young people a chance. Over the past year, I have held meetings with leading figures from a range of sectors to tell them about initiatives such as the wage incentive - which offers more than £2,000 to employers who take on an unemployed young person. I have also been keen to hear from businesses about what we can do to ensure these programmes work for them. This helps me, and all those working in Jobcentre Plus, to ensure our young people are equipped with the skills to compete in today’s competitive labour market.
And this is seeing real dividends. The number of young people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has fallen for each of the past 15 months. That’s really encouraging, but we are not complacent. So I would encourage all business owners to take confidence from the recent signs of recovery in the economy, look ahead to a positive future and help a young person to take their first step into a great career.
Mark Hoban is minister for employment