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Awards for Youth Employment Initiative: what can we learn about age at work?

by on September 10, 2015

We’ve blogged before on the topic of competitions, rankings and awards for various age at work related matters (and queried what these might achieve).

The latest are the Personnel Today awards for 2015 for Youth Employment Initiative as covered in this article on the Personnel Today website which profiles those organizations which have been shortlisted. The finalists are Chelmsford City Council, Coventry City Council, First Great Western, Jaguar Land Rover, the Land Registry, Mouchel Consulting (an international infrastructure and business services group), Nottingham City Council and Zurich Insurance.

The most interesting aspect of these profiles is the description of the ‘challenges’ that each organization is said to have addressed through its particular initiative. These included (and watch out for the HR-speak):

  • noting high levels of youth unemployment (often specified for the 16-to 24-year-old age group)
  • observing how organizations complain that young people they did hire were not “work ready”
  • impact of retrenchment during the recession leading to a lack of entry-level ‘talent’ (I’m not sure that this relates to youth unemployment since this could be filled by workers of different ages)
  • needing to introduce a “digital generation” to the workplace where only 1% of the workforce is under 30 and one-third are close to retirement age (again, I don’t see how this is met by targeting only ‘youth’ employment, can’t those over 24 be ‘digital’?)
  • needing to find a high volume application process ‘that would address the challenges of recruiting Generation Y candidates’ (Gen Y – really? Do younger people apply for jobs in such a different way from other age groups?)
  • wanting to open up ‘long, fulfilling careers to young people’ to address ‘challenges in its talent pipeline’ (how about such careers for people of all ages?)
  • wanting to raise employment and attainment among the city’s young people, as well as change its own age profile as an employer
  • identifying an ageing workforce and wanting to develop a scheme to attract highly motivated and skilled applicants from the 16-24 age group for future long-term employment

I don’t doubt the good faith of those involved in these initiatives. But it’s quite fascinating to look at these ‘challenges’ from a perspective which doesn’t focus on any specific age group but considers issues about age at work more broadly. Note the potentiality ascribed to youth (but not older age), the reproduction of supposed generational differences, the notion that there might be an ideal ‘age profile’ for an organization and the equating of youth with ‘digital’.

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