Now that the dust has settled on last months hugely entertaining Junior Apprentice television finale, it is worth assessing the result and what it says about youth unemployment in the UK. The series, which sees young and aspiring entrepreneurs compete for a grant to fund their activities, concluded in December as the articulate winner Zara Brownless saw off the challenge of her more instinctive and abrupt rival James McCullagh. However, as viewers suggested that style had been allowed to triumph over substance, is there cause for concern with regards to the perception of young job seekers and the requirements of employers in the UK?
The Junior Apprentice: Seeking Raw Talent or Polished Gems?
With youth unemployment at it highest ever levels in the UK, the Junior Apprentice show held additional significance in 2011. Not only did it boast the potential to launch a youngster’s entrepreneurial career and create an employer of the future, but it also offered a portent of hope to the million young job seekers who found themselves unemployed. The result may have come as a disappointment to some however, especially given that the eventual loser undoubtedly displayed the highest levels of craft, creativity and leadership skill throughout the entire televised process.
While winner Zara Brownless may not have been portrayed as a naturally gifted entrepreneur, she did present a more professional look throughout and was incredibly articulate for a girl still in her teens. This clean, composed and polished image was in stark contrast to her rival’s often-unkempt appearance and abrupt manner, and was in no doubt some way responsible for her eventual success in the boardroom. With this in mind, it is worth addressing whether employers in the UK are looking for the right attributes when interviewing young workers, or whether they are favouring more rounded individuals ahead of those who boast a more creative and yet inconsistent spark.
Youth Unemployment: Are Employers Prepared to Train Young Workers?
Though it is fair to say that Zara Brownless was a credit to both herself and her parents in the way that she conducted herself, her appreciation of language and ability to communicate with industry professionals was far beyond those boasted by many of her peers. In fact the majority of enthusiastic young job seekers in the UK are far more similar to James, in so much that they offer a raw and unpolished skill set and are yet to learn the intricacies of presentation and professional communication.
If employers are more inclined to hire polished and well spoken youth candidates ahead of those who boast a natural if raw commercial potential, then this goes some way to explaining the high levels of vast youth unemployment. Where such a gap exists between employer expectations and candidate skill sets, there is bound to be a significant short fall in the number of job vacancies that are filled. Unless the hiring organizations of today are willing to train and nurture raw youth talent, then the employment market could well remain stagnant for a significant period of time.
With apprenticeships and entry-level roles being key to reducing youth unemployment in the UK, employers must ensure that they are seeking the right type of attributes in their candidates. By favouring genuine commercial talent over presentation and committing to train, educate and develop the potential of their young employees appropriately, the current stalemate can be broken and young job seekers will be able to prosper in 2012 and beyond.