Why the UK’s businesses are failing young people

Businesses must stop failing youngsters like me, writes Jack Parsons.

UK businesses are currently failing young people. I know – I’m 23. I left school at 16 with no proper qualifications and employers ignored me – for them, it was all about having a degree. I was one of the 1.3million 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK who spend six months or more not in employment, education or training, a huge 17% of the age group. In addition, 700,000 in the same age group, or 10%, are NEET for a year or more.

The number of NEETs is continuing to rise and there are worries the figure could be exacerbated further by Brexit Plus. With the latest news that students are now going to be on average more than £50K in debt by the time they graduate, rising to £57K for those from poorer backgrounds, it’s no surprise that university is increasingly not an option for many. But employers still aren’t embracing young people without degrees.

As the Social Mobility Commission states: “Social mobility is not just about getting graduates into the professions but making sure that every child in the UK is given the chance to follow a path into education or employment for the long term.”

Young people are fed up with being ignored – they proved they wanted change at the recent general election, creating a youthquake which sent shockwaves up and down the country.

Turnout was at a 25-year high with a 16% increase in the number of 18-24-year-olds turning out to vote compared with 2015. Young people came out in force for Labour, giving Jeremy Corbyn a boost unpredicted by most polls, and resulting in a hung parliament. These are the very same millennials who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025.

Yet skilled and talented young people all over Britain are still facing two critical problems – they can’t get a job because they have no degree or experience, or they’ve taken an unfulfilling job for the sake of it, because they didn’t know what they wanted to do. Around 66% of young people want to change their jobs by 2020 because they are unhappy.

CVs often don’t do talented individuals any justice at all. Just because they don’t have a degree or relevant experience to tick the boxes of the ATS systems used by most recruiters, doesn’t mean they don’t have huge amounts to offer companies.

Take my story. Even though I had few qualifications when I left school, let alone a degree, I had drive, determination, passion, a massive work ethic, a knack for connecting people and a belief that I was going to make a success of myself.

Not long after leaving school, I was told that I couldn’t have a job in sales because I didn’t have a degree. I wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I offered my services for free to a wonderful managing director who was prepared to take a chance on me. I soon proved that you don’t need a degree to succeed. Within one year of hard work, I had won myself and the company several national awards.

I soon realised I wasn’t alone when it came to my previous lack of opportunities and saw there was a massive gap in the market to address the disconnect between hugely talented young people without qualifications, and the kind of innovative companies which might want to employ them.

Through yet more hard work and determination, I am currently CEO of yourfeed – a new online networking platform, which helps hook Gen Z and millennials up with opportunities at companies and brands, while also teaching those companies and brands how to nurture, attract and retain young talent. It’s also an opportunity for them to give back with mentoring, advice and feedback.

I started out with £20,000 of savings in my bedroom when I had my lightbulb moment two years ago. Now, I have £700,000 of investment and my business has a market value of £8 million. Through networking, I picked the best brains in business, did a load of market research and have built an advisory board around me which includes the managing director of the Bank of New York, a Google COO and a CEO from Havas Media Group.

Using everything I’ve learnt, I am promising to connect two million young people with commercial opportunities by 2020, as well as helping businesses change their attitudes and not get left behind as the world of work continues to evolve and increasingly rely on young people. We are #GenerationNow and the future workforce – we don’t always need qualifications to add value to your bottom line.

Do you think Jack Parsons is right? Email us your comments at [email protected]