Employers must recognise the 'valuable skills' young people offer, says O2 HR director

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Last week, thousands of young people all over the country nervously opened the envelopes that, for many, will have felt like the ticket to a university degree and a successful career.

For many, university is not a viable or even appealing option and against a backdrop of rising youth unemployment, it's understandable that some will be worried about how they make the move from school to the workplace.

So, what do we need to do as a business community to help these young people take their first steps into the world of work?

First, we need to recognise the genuine benefits that the young generation can bring. Having grown up with the internet, young people have valuable skills that many other workers don't. It's therefore disappointing that when the country's economic growth depends on the digital economy, we're excluding from the workforce the very people with the skills to make the most of the opportunity that digital presents.

Second, if businesses are to reap the benefits of this 'digitally savvy' generation, we need to take action to help them make informed decisions. Once they have finished school or university it's too late. We need to educate young people earlier on in life about the different careers available and showcase the variety of routes into their chosen career, whether that's through internships, apprenticeships or graduate schemes.

There are a number of charities and organisations that can help link businesses with schools to provide such valuable career advice. We also need to look at new ways to inspire young people about the careers open to them.

And finally, businesses need to recognise that even the smallest contribution will make a difference. Offering meaningful mentoring and advice such as what to wear on their first day, what to take to a meeting and how to apply their strengths and skills to an appropriate role can go a long way.

Supporting young people on their journey to work makes good business sense. Young people provide an exciting and talented pool of potential, but it's up to us as a business community to help them grow their confidence and capitalise on their skills and knowledge so we can develop a workforce fit for the future.

Ann Pickering (pictured) is HR director at O2

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