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Overseas workers preferred to unskilled school leavers in job market

Unemployment in 16-24 age group set to rise further as demand for skilled workers from abroad at record levels, says CIPD

School leavers are being pushed to the back of the jobs queue as Britain’s employers increasingly turn to migrant labour to fill vacancies.

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development said demand for workers from overseas had reached record levels because companies felt young people in the UK lacked the skills to make them employable.

With unemployment in the 16-24 age group already standing just below the 1m-level, the CIPD warned that the jobless rate for the young was likely to increase further over the coming months as school leavers struggled to find work.

Its quarterly survey of the labour market found that the government’s cap on non-EU workers had been ineffective since firms had switched to employing staff from within the European Union, where there are no barriers to labour mobility.

The CIPD said companies wanted action from the government to improve the work prospects of UK school leavers. When asked, respondents identified literacy (53%) and numeracy (42%), as well as good customer service skills (40%) and good communication skills (40%).

Gerwyn Davies, public policy adviser, CIPD, said: “Youth unemployment looks set to rise further amid employer concerns about the employability of young people. The migration cap is stemming the flow of skilled non-EU migrant workers on the one hand, but increasing the supply of EU workers with the other, which highlights the relative ineffectiveness of the cap in bringing net migration levels down.

“Employers seem eager to take full advantage of this, to make use of their positive attitude and their skills. The perception among many of our members is that too many young people in the UK do not have these qualities, which may explain why fewer young people are being hired. At a time when many school leavers will be looking for work and the number of job opportunities is falling, youth unemployment could increase more sharply in the coming months. The government therefore needs to redouble efforts to ensure the education and skills system is fit for purpose to ensure young people can find a foothold in an increasingly competitive jobs market.”

A quarter of the sample of more than 1,000 companies said they planned to hire migrant workers over the coming months. By contrast, hiring intentions for workers born in the UK was down since employers were last asked about their hiring intentions for young people in the spring of 2010. At that time, the proportion planning to hire 16-year-old school leavers stood at 14%, but the CIPD said it had now fallen to 12%. The number of employers planning to recruit school leavers aged 17-18 and above has fallen to a quarter (25%) from almost a third (31%) in the same period, with the outlook for graduates also poor. The number of employers planning to take on higher education leavers under the age of 24 is 38%, compared to 47% last year.

The CIPD said that the government’s efforts to boost the employment of apprentices appeared to be working, with 37% of respondents planning to recruit apprentices compared with 24% last year. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds