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Quality work experience could close the skills gap

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Offering young people quality work experience will help to close the skills gap, according to Samantha Clark, HR director at Accenture

Accenture has experienced the skills shortage first-hand, struggling to recruit new hires with web development and Java experience. “It makes sense to bring people in at a junior level and build the skills within the organisation,” said Clark. “There is a gap there in terms of skills and one way of closing that is to grow your own talent.”

The organisation offers placements to young people as part of the Movement to Work scheme, a programme aimed at young people who are NEET – not in employment, education or training.

It comprises a four- to six-week placement with the aim of giving young people job search skills and confidence. Around 200 employers have joined Movement to Work, including HSBC, National Grid, BAE Systems, Barclays, GSK, and BT. Delivery partners include Jobcentre Plus and The Prince’s Trust, alongside other youth employment specialists.

“The idea is to give people who are NEET a quality experience with a reputable employer, and they build some skills and confidence. Ideally this would lead to permanent work either with that employer or with another in a related field,” explained Clark. “We are trying to provide them with something that will allow them to go on and find work more easily.”

Getting NEETs into employment also ties into organisations’ social responsibility agendas. The Prince's Trust Macquarie Youth Index 2014 found that 40% of jobless young people have experienced symptoms of mental illness, including panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of self-loathing as a direct result of being unemployed. Long-term unemployed youths were more than twice as likely to believe they have nothing to live for (21%, compared to 9% of the overall population).

“It’s part of the broader work we do around social responsibility,” said Clark. “We do a lot of work with various organisations to try to build the skills of young people, and we have lots of volunteers within Accenture who are involved in our social responsibility agenda. The mentors get quite attached to the youngsters they work with, they really feel like they are giving something back.”