Youth unemployment remains stubbornly and worryingly high at around 1m. The Prince’s Trust, a charity, which supports young job seekers (up to the age of 30), last year predicted that youth unemployment will not fall to pre-recession levels until at least 2018 – a decade after the financial crisis hit the UK.
If the Trust’s predictions prove correct then hundreds of thousands of young people will still be unemployed for another three years or more.
A potentially viable way out of this seemingly endless spiral of despair is self-employment. Increasing numbers of young people are going down this route, a move encouraged by Employment Minister Esther McVey, who described it as a “good and worthwhile” option.
The New Enterprise Allowance, a government scheme, has helped over 4,000 young people aged 18 to 24 turn their hobbies into businesses since April 2011 and it looks set to help many more.
Here we look at the top five challenges facing young job seekers and how a proactive approach, which includes going it alone as a freelancer or business owner, can result in success.
Challenge No 1 – Lack of experience and skills
Young people are unprepared for the world of work, according to a 2013 YouGov survey of 635 employers. They lack skills such as communication, team work and the ability to work under pressure.
Honing these skills can boost job prospects and also prove useful in creating a viable career, as Amie Samba discovered. When she graduated with a degree in sports science and psychology in 2009, she struggled to secure a full time graduate job. This motivated her to make the most of her skills and within a year of graduating, she set up a business running sports sessions for children and adults. Her business, Run Fun Starz, now goes into small companies to set up fitness programmes for owners and their staff. In 2013 the business broke even and Samba was in a strong enough position financially to move out of her parents’ home.
Challenge No 2 – Long-term unpaid work experience
Young people who take the initiative and get the work experience required to gain employment in their chosen field often find themselves stuck working for free. For example before setting up Run Fun Starz, Amie found herself doing a lot of unpaid work, interspersed with short-term contracts which is another reason why going it alone seemed an attractive – and fortunately, in her case – viable option.