Help the Young to Help Themselves

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Recruitment at entry level in any business is, at its best, an arduous task but for an SME with a challenging budget and not wishing to spend a fortune in recruitment costs, it becomes a little more perilous.

The challenge, for me, is balancing the cost of recruitment against the cost of getting it wrong and having to start the whole process again. When budgets are tight and the impact that the role will have on the business unproven – just how much do we spend on the recruitment process?

Believing that young people should be given an opportunity to make their mark, and having a relatively good record with regards to recruitment, I decided to give the Government Work Experience Scheme a go. As well as giving me 8 weeks (potentially) to assess whether the new position we have created will actually benefit the business, it allows the candidate to assess us before they commit to a full time role. And it’s free – brilliant!!

I entered the recruitment process full of optimism – 6 candidates offered up by Job Centre Plus, all of which had volunteered themselves for the experience. These were young people who wanted to work, wanted to gain experience and had the additional carrot of a possible full time opportunity at the end of the scheme. Ok, so it wasn’t all plain sailing – 2 of the candidates had already been offered full time work elsewhere and 1 was on a Princes Trust training course so my pool of potential talent had halved within 6 phone calls. It was to get worse on interview day! 1 called in sick and the other 2 didn’t show – no phone call, nothing.

So we start the process again, line up 6 more candidates, and set aside a whole day to assess the budding talent that was so desperate to put an end to the bi-weekly rigmarole that is a trip to the Job Centre. By the end of the day I was frustrated to the point of pulling out what little hair I have left! Candidates turning up late, candidates wearing jeans and hoody’s, candidates attending the interview knowing absolutely nothing about the business they are hoping will be the catalyst for a long, successful career, and even a candidate who stated that the reason I should select them over all the other candidates was that, and I quote, “I need to get out of the house”. Had it not been for one exception, my day would have been a total write off.

Having got over my angst I got to thinking why? Why had these young people done such a poor job of selling themselves? Who is supporting them? What are they being taught in their final year of school, college or university to prepare them for the battle that they face in gaining employment? With young (16-24) unemployment in excess of 20% we, as a society, need to be teaching these people the basics. If nothing else, turning up suitably attired, making sure you research your prospective employer and thinking about the answers you give to fairly generic questions is a must!

Hopefully, I have unearthed a rough diamond during venture into the Work Experienced Scheme, only time, a structured induction and solid training will tell – and responsibility for that sits on my shoulders. However, I hope the feedback given to the JCP team will be taken in the right spirit. Otherwise I fear for the others.

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