The new remote learning platform created by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) could play a crucial role in helping young people gain qualifications and develop the self-confidence they need to access rewarding careers, according to Jack Parsons, CEO of The Youth Group.
He also urged employers in the sector to give more young people a chance.
“We can all do something to help young people move forward,” he said during the launch of the BESA Academy. “The youth unemployment figures do not look good, but there are fantastic opportunities out there and we just need to make sure young people can access them.
“We know young people are being squeezed in the job market, but the government is doing its best…and we are lowering many of the barriers that stop them getting into work.”
He urged employers to embrace the Chancellor’s £2bn ‘kickstart’ funding scheme for employers who take on apprentices and trainees as a way of addressing the growing number of 18-24 year olds whose prospects have been decimated by the Covid-19 crisis.
There are now 156,000 fewer people in that age bracket in employment as a result of the pandemic and over a million young people will be out of work this autumn, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.
“Kickstart is a great scheme…they did something very similar in New Zealand and it really worked. There are a number of red flags, but we will work with the government and employers to sort them out,” said Parsons.
The Youth Group (www.theyouthgroup.co.uk) comprises an online community of 1.7 million and helps young people “make it” by giving them access to resources, qualifications and employment opportunities. It has so far helped almost 10,000 young people ‘boost’ their prospects and works with educators, the government and employers.
It estimates that the cost of youth unemployment in the UK will rise to £28bn over the next decade, but Parsons said the availability of digital services like the BESA Academy meant many thousands of young people now had access to work opportunities they could never have reached in the past.
“We now need to use these tools to help our young people become great global citizens,” he told BESA chief executive David Frise. “I love your [BESA Academy] programme and I don’t say that lightly because I only get involved in things with a purpose.”
The Academy has started delivering a comprehensive programme of training courses, assessments and CPD for individuals, employers and training providers. Individuals can access all of the resources needed to improve their existing skills and learn new ones while also keeping their qualifications and competencies up to date.
The Academy is also designed to help employers and managers ensure their workforces are fully qualified and able to comply with legislation and industry standards.
Learning resources can be accessed at any time and in any place via all types of digital device. The courses are all flexible and can be completed in ‘bite sized chunks’. Each Academy candidate receives an online ‘skills passport’ storing all their completed training, qualifications and CV in one place.
Parsons said it was an example of the kind of initiative that was needed to “fill gaps” left by mainstream education, but added that it was not teachers fault that schools kept letting young people down.
“I used to point the finger at teachers, but now realise they are doing the best they can within the current system, which will take years and years to fix. We need to focus on the creative things we can do now like your Academy, increase mentoring and the like.”
He also called for the world’s major digital equipment manufacturers and internet providers to do more to address ‘IT poverty’, which leaves many young people without the equipment and broadband support they need to benefit from online learning or to work from home.
“The big boys need to step up,” said Parsons. “They have the infrastructure, the cash and the equipment to work with local communities so that young people from deprived backgrounds are not left behind. Small employers will not be able to do this.”
He said if the large firms did not do the right thing, he would be calling on his 1.7 million community to stop engaging with them “and these are their customers of the future”.
Parsons also asked potential employers to “be kinder’ by being sensitive to the mental health problems experienced by young people.
“Please lead with kindness and respect when a young person comes to you for an interview. You don’t know about their circumstances and how hard it might have been even for them to get there,” he said.
“Everyone can help someone – no matter how small you are – but if you say you are going to help a young person, please commit. Don’t let them down.”
To mark the launch of the Academy, BESA is offering a special discounted rate for its new Health & Safety Environment course to anyone who registered and attended the online launch event. For more information go to: www.theBESA.com/academy