How can the global HR services sector take a lead on post-pandemic youth employment challenges as well as on the broader inclusion and social mobility agenda? This was just one of the major themes of the World Employment Conference 2022. Making change happen in these areas is one of the best examples of the industry’s track record on social impact; the priority now is to build on discussions at the Brussels gathering and accelerate future progress.
In the words of World Employment Confederation(WEC) Managing Director Denis Pennel, “having a clear understanding of the long-term impact of the pandemic is an important starting point”. Spot on. And nowhere is this more apposite than in considering the impact on cohorts who were already under-represented on the labour markets pre-pandemic. Young people, as they start their journey into a fast-changing and often bewildering world of work, need support and guidance. So, after two years of economic and social turmoil, we are on a mission to build bridges and address the risk of a ‘lost generation’. Here’s how:
- Recognising the size of the challenge – The global pandemic has had disproportionate effect on young people. In the words of Lieve Verboven, Director of the ILO’s Office for the EU and Benelux countries, “youth unemployment globally is now over 15% , which is three times higher than adult unemployment”. The impact on self-confidence and mental health cannot be overestimated. Employers and HR services professionals must go the extra mile to help the next generation find their way and navigate a disrupted employment landscape.
- Healing the ‘pandemic scar’ – The post-Covid youth unemployment crisis has been vividly labelled a ‘pandemic scar’. The focus now is on turning collective good will into tangible action. As well of driving job creation, the focus must be on listening to young people to better understand their concerns, hopes and motivations. This was the point made by Tabea Kabinde, Managing Director of We Find Talent who chaired one of the high-energy sessions at the Brussels conference. The reality is that recruitment and HR services professionals – who are in daily contact with young job-seekers and hiring employers – are uniquely placed to build the right bridges.
- Shaping future skills policy – In the words of the OECD’s Mark Keese: “Mega-trends like demographic change, digitalisation and decarbonisation are driving demand for high-level, transferable skills”. This is echoed by Gartner research showing that the number of skills required for a single job is increasing at 6,8% annually and that 29% of the skills that were present in an average job in 2018 will not be needed in 2022.” National skills policies must reflect these seismic changes. And the HR services sector must be at the forefront of the skills debate in order to nurture sustainable, dynamic and inclusive labour markets that work for both individuals and employers.
- Making change happen on D&I – This runs in parallel with the youth employment agenda – particularly with regards to the need to turbo-boost social mobility in most countries. Practical ways forward for making change happen on diversity and inclusion Include building strong partnerships (with charities and colleges, for example), using technology to create breakthroughs and working with clients on reviewing hiring procedures and wider talent strategies. Broader use of career guidance and career coaching services – that put the needs and aspirations of individual workers front and centre – will also accelerate future progress.
- Practising what we preach – Opportunity also lies in continuing to make progress on diversity and inclusion within the industry’s own workforce and by ramping up our own youth employment activities. Proactively promoting recruitment and employment services to the next generation as a fulfilling, varied and purposeful career route will create new pathways into the profession!
Helping future generations build bridges into the world of work has never been more important. It is also a crucial building block for ensuring that recruitment/HR services is increasingly seen as a highly respected, sought-after and dynamic profession of the future. That’s the plan, let’s build some more bridges!