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Could hiring young and unemployed people be the secret to a successful business?

Young unemployed people are often overlooked in favour of their more experienced and older counterparts

There is a real business case for seeking to enlist candidates from this social group into your workforce. John Stewart, director of human resources at energy company SSE, outlined in an interview with HR magazine not only the potential benefits for businesses by employing the young and out of work but also the wider benefits that it provides to society.

SSE practices what it preaches, offering 16- to 24-year-olds who are in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance a six-month placement working at the company. Unlike other similar schemes, those who take up the placement are treated in the same way as regular employees and are paid the national living wage – a voluntary scheme where wages are based on the cost of living and set by the Living Wage Foundation.

One of the core aims of the programme is to help young and unemployed people to foster the skills needed to secure full-time employment or entry into further education. Stewart also revealed his hopes that the scheme can help to counteract the well-documented lifelong downward pressure on the earnings of an individual who experiences a period of unemployment while under the age of 25.

The scheme is delivered with the assistance of the charity Barnardo’s. The project worker responsible, Lesley Bollan, outlined the barriers facing young people, from lacking sufficient qualifications to having the responsibility of caring for family members. The scheme is designed to act as a stepping stone to help participants feel able to take control of their financial and domestic issues.

Recognising the wide diversity of issues facing young people, Bollan stated that any response from the private or public sectors must be equally flexible. This programme is among the first that sees a private sector company such as SSE teaming up with a third sector charitable organisation to try to remedy social ills through preventive action.

It is not just an issue of charity, however, with Stewart indicating that the results of the scheme had been a pleasant surprise. Every £1 invested by SSE in the joint programme returned £7.67 over five years, which is a remarkable return on investment in any context.

Many other benefits can be seen by businesses willing to invest in young people. Unemployment generally tends to be higher for under-25s than for older segments of the workforce, meaning a much larger talent pool from which to select the best candidates. Many young people already possess the skills, and sometimes the qualifications, needed to succeed in work but struggle to break the paradoxical barrier of often needing experience to get a job in the first place.

The results from the Barnardo’s Work Programme show quite clearly that it pays to invest in diver.

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