With around one million young people still unemployed in the UK, taking the first step onto the career ladder is now tougher than ever before. Career advice is vitally important in helping young people on their way into work and should not be underestimated.
After all, ten years ago, who would have predicted that future jobs would have included the social media strategist, blogger or the app developer? With the fast-paced evolution of the digital world, we need to provide this current generation of school leavers with information and knowledge about these new and exciting opportunities and how to make the most of them.
Today's school leavers have a set of skills that many workers don't - they are digital natives. So we need to do more to nurture these latent digital skills, and encourage young people to make the most of the fact that they have grown up in a digital world, confident in the value of their skills to prospective employers.
But while the quality of careers guidance in schools is important, businesses are responsible too. Thousands of young people will be taking their first step into the world of work this year, and it's in businesses' interests to help them successfully navigate their route from education to employment. I believe there are three key things businesses can do:
Businesses can help young people learn about the careers open to them by offering quality work experience and providing meaningful mentoring and advice. Career support can also take the form of partnering with local youth organisations and educational institutions. Offering simple tips on what to wear on your first day, what to take to a meeting, how to conduct yourself in an interview and how to apply your strengths and skills to an appropriate role for you can also be invaluable.
Engaging with young people
Businesses don't need to go it alone. There are a number of charities and organisations that partner businesses with local schools. For example, Speakers for Schools is an independent charity that provides young people in state secondary schools across the UK with free access to inspirational speakers. It is an effective way for businesses to talk to and inspire young people, and one which at O2, we play a proactive role in.
Helping young people realise their potential
Beyond providing direct careers advice, businesses can also do more to market the opportunities open to young people to help them realise the potential avenues into the workplace. One great example is apprenticeships. National Apprenticeship Week just last month was a great way for employers to showcase the value an apprenticeship can bring.
All businesses, big and small, have a part to play in supporting young people into the world of work. If we all act together, we can help nurture a workforce with skills for the future.
Ann Pickering (pictured) is HR director at Telefonica UK