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In the last few weeks I’ve met two very different young people who find themselves in exactly the same situation.

D is 22, living at home and can’t get a job. Because he’s in Ireland he also doesn’t really get any benefits (thankfully his parents are supportive). When D was about 11 years old he decided he wanted to be a policeman (or Guard to be precise). Every choice he made after that was working towards that goal. His education choices, volunteering, behaviour the lot. He went to university and studied forensics and spent a year studying in Germany. All the while keeping up his volunteering for orgs such as the Red Cross. But right now he’s applying to work in the mushroom factory or in the dairy. He applied for the Guard along with thousands of others and got through 5 aptitude tests each time making the cut but then he came 573 when the cut was 500 – no one will even have read his application form. No one will know that he had a plan, chose a path. Instead he’s being told he’s overqualified, doesn’t have the right experience. It’s likely he’ll have to leave Ireland to pursue his dream – he’ll risk the wrath of his Dad and consider the PSNI or look to move to Canada or Australia. It’s not what he wants but with only a small number of roles after a period of recruitment freeze he’s got little choice. He’s 22.

A is 24, she’s got a 2.1 in Phsychology from Sheffield. She bright, enthusiastic, personable. When she finished Uni she couldn’t get a job in her chosen field so she went to work in retail, she ended up there for two years. Eventually she got a role as an admin officer in a psychotherapy service. Between accepting the job, leaving her retail role the service had a budget cut and withdrew the offer (& made a few others redundant).

She signed on, and has just finished an 8 week work experience placement with the job centre in their offices up stairs. She’s living at home, taking very opportunity she can (I met her through a job centre organised mentoring scheme). But she can’t get a break – or a start. She wants to have a career, wants a role where she can give back but she can’t even get off the starting blocks.

Both of them were told they had to go to university to be successful – had to get those qualifications. Both of them have done what on the face of it was the right thing. But what now? Is this it?

I’m helping where I can – cv advice, sourcing some potential work experience, discussing options – trying to help them see choices. But it’s tough.

So what more can we do? As employers, managers, businesses how can we help these young people? These people who (lets face it) will pay our pension one day – what more can we do?

At a recent CIPD London event it was said that 21% of 18-24 year olds are NEETS (not in employment, education or training) yet we still as a country are aiming for 50% of young people to go to university.

I don’t have the answer but I do know that I want to so more. This can’t be it for them – there has to be more.