Why are young jobseekers struggling to get part-time jobs?
Most people’s first taste of work experience (and probably yours too), often starts in part-time jobs. Whether it’s something to do on the weekends, to top up weekly pocket money or helping to fund further studies, part-time work has always been popular amongst young people in particular. Not just a way to earn some extra cash independently, it also gives them their first taste of the working world.
But a recent study by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) showed a substantial decline in the number of teenagers who are working part-time, with figures falling from 435,000 to 260,000, a 20% drop in 15 years.
The report states: “Recruiters place significant emphasis on experience but young people are leaving education increasingly less experienced.”
So what has caused this drastic dip, and how are teenagers expected to gain valuable work experience for their CV now
Retail is often a first job for teenager workers, with 20% of young people working in the sector. It’s easy to see why; not only does it provide a flexible working environment to allow them to continue their education, but it also provides transferable skills and teaches customer service which can be applied to every retail job.
But thanks to the popularity of online shopping, many people are avoiding the high street and shop from home instead. As a result many retail stores are struggling to compete with online deals, and are having to cut back on staff, and even shut down completely. Already this year, Clinton Cards and La Senza have gone into administration, Peacocks closed 160 stores and the Game store suffered severe losses too, and that’s just the tip of the retail-shaped iceberg, so there’s not a lot of room left for part-time staff, and certainly no money to train up retail newbies.
And it’s not just retail that’s running low on part-time staff. Service jobs are the most popular jobs for teenagers, but the decline of pubs has meant that waitressing and bar-work aren’t easy to come by either.
Rise of the competition
Recruiters are inundated with applications at the moment thanks to high levels of unemployment and the recession. But while this is good for the recruitment industry, it’s not such great news for teenagers who are looking for part-time jobs as they’re now competing against thousands of other unemployed people, many of whom have many more years of experience and probably have more contacts in their particular industry too.
Working harder at school
Teenagers can’t really win when it comes to exams. If they don’t work hard enough, they’re seen as lazy, they work hard and the government says exams are getting easier.
With pressure to do well at school, particularly once they hit university, many teenagers don’t have the time to work part-time and juggle their studies, and it’s not gone un-noticed.
Valerie Todd, the UKCES commissioner said:
“There’s more emphasis on doing well at school. Young people are finding less time to do what they would have done a few years ago, whether that’s a paper round or working in the local shop…we need to think about how we get young people the work experience they need.”
Not only that, but many graduates study the same popular subjects (e.g. arts degrees), making some job sectors fuller than others, meaning degrees are only becoming useful if it’s in a specialist field with few applicants.
So where is the experience going to come from?
A decline in part-time jobs may not sound that bad, but with the recent rise in tuition fees, many young people are turning their backs on university and looking to go straight into work. With no part-time employment to give them work experience, or the option of further study to enhance their knowledge, how are they going to build up their CV and impress employers?
The government is trying to combat the problem but not only having a heavy focus on internships, but by also changing how they fund schools for pupils aged 16 and over. Previously schools were given money on a per qualification basis, but this is set to change, and now funding will be given on a per student basis instead, in a bid to encourage schools to offer activities to pupils that aren’t about passing exams.
To help encourage teenagers to take on work experience, there are also plans for any pupils that don’t pass English and maths (the most popular qualifications looked at by employers), to keep studying it until they reach 18 so they have the essential grades on their CV.