Outlook inequality is holding back young talent

Businesses need young, diverse talent, but many struggle to find them. Not because young people don’t want the roles on offer, but because many discount themselves from opportunities before they’ve even got as far as applying.

It’s easy to see where this pessimism stems from. Today, a whole generation is grappling with the disruption that COVID-19 has caused to education and jobs. Many are entering an unusually volatile jobs market, one that is disproportionately tough on young people.

Research carried out by the Social Market Foundation, with Tesco's support, shows a significant number of young people understandably feel pessimistic about their future. In fact, the data shows they are less optimistic now than in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008.

This is especially true of young people from lower income families who report lower levels of optimism and career expectation, and feel less equipped to compete in the job market. Worse, this ‘outlook inequality’ is stopping thousands from going after their career goals.

We must not allow a two-tier system to emerge where some young people are equipped with the skills and confidence to get on in life and others are left behind. Employers like us need to do their part to make sure the odds don’t stay stacked against them. But how?

Outlook inequality starts early in life so the solution must too.

Pre-employability programmes that help school children to build their employability skills and confidence are a vital part of the puzzle. They help young people feel prepared to transition from education to the world of work.

That’s exactly why Tesco has been working with The Prince’s Trust to support pre-employability programmes in secondary schools since 2018, and why we have an ambition to reach a further 200,000 young people most in need over the next five years.

Once young people are ready to step onto the career ladder, they need the opportunities to be there for them, whoever they are, whatever their background. Whether they’re a school leaver or a graduate, looking for progression or a stepping-stone to something else.

That’s why we’re creating thousands of potential opportunities for young people through a combination of the Government Kickstart scheme, apprenticeships, graduate programmes Internships and roles across our business.

And we’ve challenged ourselves to build out employment programmes in a way that is truly inclusive.

One of the outcomes of this work is our newly launched Business Diversity Internship which will help ensure we bring diverse young talent into our business that we can nurture and grow.

Finally, the research shows many young people are put off applying for opportunities because they simply didn’t think they’d fit in.

When they can see someone from a similar background to them in a role, they’re more likely to believe they can do the same. They need to see it to believe it, and it’s our responsibility to make that happen for them.

Diversity and inclusion need to be embedded in everything a business does, at every level.

If we want to overcome ‘outlook inequality’ and attract young people from all backgrounds, employers need to build inclusive workplaces, led by inclusive leaders and role models.

We are on a journey to truly achieving this and remain committed to doing the work to make it a reality at Tesco.

Young people’s employment prospects and aspirations have been hit hard and for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, it’s harder still. Employers like us must rise to the challenge to support the next generation to achieve their potential.

Natasha Adams is chief people officer at Tesco


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