"It is employers who create jobs" If cities are to help young people to get the jobs they need, then engaging with employers is pivotal to success. Success requires the creation of more and better jobs for young people to do. It means employers, large and small, public and private, from local start-ups and microbusinesses to national and international corporations with branches in the city, recruiting more young people, retaining them, developing them and providing opportunities for them. So, employer engagement needs to be at the heart of city action to meet the youth employment challenge.
So, what are the concrete city actions that deliver results?
Find out what employers need
At a minimum, cities need to have a clear idea of what employers’ needs are: what jobs (vacancies) do they have available, and are likely to have available, in the future? What skills do they need? What jobs are they finding hard to fill because of skill deficiencies? How do they go about recruiting young people? What more could they do to recruit young people? Why do employers not hire young people? For example, in Leeds City Region the Local Enterprise Partnership uses a biennial employer survey assessing their skill needs, the extent and nature of skills shortages and gaps, underemployment and how these vary by sector and occupation. A sample survey can not only identify particular needs but also broader patterns that can then be addressed.
Give information, advice and guidance
Young people, if they are to make well informed choices as they move from education into the labor market, require sound information on jobs, the skills they need for them, earnings and so on. Close relations with employers enables access to this information and they are often willing to help develop career materials, give talks, attend events and even provide mentoring. Cities are in a good position to gather together information on employer needs and labor market trends and then produce attractive materials for young people to help guide their education, training and job decisions.
Build long term relations between employers and the education system
The transition from school to work is crucial for young people. Whilst there is value in individual employers and individual schools, colleges and universities developing relationships with each other for mutual benefit, to ease this process for young people (and employers) cities can play a strategic role in systematizing these, encouraging them, demonstrating the benefits of them and putting in place measures to assist greater responsiveness of education providers to meet employer needs. They can establish incentives (financial, behavioral or moral) to do so and measure (in part) local providers (and employers) on their degree of success in securing young people access to jobs and further appropriate training. In Wrocław, Poland, the growth of foreign inward investment and the need to move up the value chain, has changed the local labour market, driving demand for more highly skilled young people. They have developed relations with schools, increasing the vocational component; and created an academic hub to encourage university/economy collaboration. Building these bridges between the worlds of education and work, helps prepare young people for the world of work, increases the likely relevance of vocational education and training and raises awareness on all sides – employer, education provider and young person.
And what about young people?
Engaging young people, and in particular providing opportunities for young people to speak of their own experiences and ambitions, is also valuable. Listening to their voices and facilitating and encouraging dialogue with employers, will help to enhance mutual understanding and raise awareness both of what young people have to offer and what employers are looking for. It may also spark innovation in how they connect with each other on the labor market.