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Hot topic: is youth unemployment scarring a generation?

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A recent House of Lords committee claimed that high levels of youth unemployment is creating a ‘scarred’ generation that faces poor long-term job prospects. Are they getting left behind in the economic recovery and, if so, what can the Government and business leaders do to connect and re-engage with younger job-seekers? M&S HR director Tanith Dodge explains.

As our economy globalises, jobs become more mobile and skills evolve more rapidly, the prospect of long-term unemployment is increasingly daunting. I am a firm believer that businesses can make a positive difference to the communities they serve.

Although many good employment initiatives exist, Marks & Spencer felt it was necessary to accelerate the solution. Last year we launched ‘Make Your Mark’, which has seen us create more than 1,400 one-month work placements in our stores. To date, around 80% of those who have completed the programme have been offered employment with M&S.

We’re partnering with  youth charity the Prince’s Trust to deliver a programme designed to address the skills and experience gap that prevents young people from gaining work. Critically, this initiative contains an ‘accelerator’ effect – delivered by encouraging our suppliers to get on board, many of which are small and medium-sized enterprises.

We have called on them all to start engaging their communities and make their own commitments to youth employment. The accelerator effect will create nationwide momentum and, in turn, deliver local community engagement.

These young people do not have many doors opened to them and are seizing opportunities when they arise. By opening our doors, we have welcomed people with a positive work attitude, real commitment and high standards of service. Our employees are benefiting too – honing their skills and developing new ones through mentoring and coaching.

The benefits of supporting youth employability are clear: it helps young people realise their potential and enables them to become productive, engaged contributors to society and the workplace; it encourages healthy and thriving communities; and it supports the long-term sustainability of our business, the economy and society as a whole.

Tomorrow, The Work Foundation's Lizzie Crowley has her say.