Is the industry doing enough to support young people?
October 28 2015
With youth unemployment at an all-time high and university fees ever-increasing, Alex Crofts, CEO of Crofts & Assinder, looks at how the industry is working to support the future generation.
With youth unemployment at an all-time high and university fees ever-increasing, Alex Crofts, CEO of Crofts & Assinder, looks at how the industry is working to support the future generation.

As a whole I believe the industry is aware of the challenges facing young people when they leave education and seek employment and I am aware of a number of positive industry initiatives in place designed to tackle this important issue.

To give a brief summary of the current status of the youth employment market, the youth unemployment rate is reportedly at its highest level for 20 years, with young people nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population.

On top of this, a government report carried out this year by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills has revealed that one in five employers would never consider offering work experience, despite the fact that 66 per cent of them say experience is a critical factor when recruiting new staff. So, if young people cannot afford to go to university and businesses simply do not take on work experience candidates, where does this leave the next generation?

Having previously worked at a senior level within recruitment for large multinational organisations and having worked in the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom industry since 2007, I have seen first-hand how the furnishing industry operates and the challenges we face, but it has also opened my eyes to the lack of opportunities available to young people.

Many companies in our industry are starting to feel the benefits of the economic recovery and can now see real growth in British furnishing manufacture. With this growth comes the need to bring in motivated and skilled young people to work in our industry at all levels.

Therefore from an early age, our industry must appeal to young people in order to highlight the benefits of a career in the furnishing, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom sector. Changes to educational funding have meant that the teaching of practical skills in some schools and colleges is reducing, meaning that students miss out on the chance to experience new skills and learn about our industry as a career.

We also have to ensure that college and university courses tailored to the kitchen and furnishing industries continue to run and do not go unrecognised. The industry can support individuals by developing a catchment net so that school leavers, without immediate plans to go to university, are made aware of the job prospects available.

This is where The Furniture Makers’ Company, the furnishing industry’s charity is leading the way. One of its core objectives is to provide a wide ranging education programme to support and nurture young talent for the future. The company provides multiple avenues to young people through a combination of school prizes, student tours, sponsorship, industry experience, industry mentoring schemes, and apprenticeships.

The company actively identifies industry-wide educational issues and requirements, taking a co-ordinated and common approach to set out clear criteria for what businesses require from educational establishments and working with both the industry and education to deliver this.

The Furniture Makers’ Company works to continuously identify the changing needs of employers, and in its role of champion for the industry, it looks to strengthen links with local colleges and universities further in order to encourage young people’s interest in the industry. In doing so, this also raises the profile of our industry and challenges the stereotypical views of our workplace that young people may have.

Many businesses in the industry support its education programme, through sponsorship, awards and prizes. Nonetheless there are businesses out there that may not be aware of these opportunities and it’s vital we promote this message to them in order to narrow the gap between education and business further.

Investing in young people is more than just a good investment for your business, it is vital for its future.

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