And now for the (good) news.
Unemployment has fallen, the economy is looking up, unseasonal green shoots are beginning to show and the country is heaving a cautious sigh of relief.
Or should that be the older members of the country? Under 25s are still struggling with 20% unemployment, and that’s without looking at underemployment or being employed in second choice jobs.
No-one wants to be part of a lost generation, but there’s a danger that a tranche of young people, straight out of school or college or university, could get caught in the ‘no experience, no job, no experience’ trap. Employers are looking for more than qualifications: they’re looking for skills.
All is not completely lost, though. For those graduates who despair of being able to get their foot in the door, the answer may lie in repackaging the teamwork, project management, organisational and creative skills they’ve gained by doing a degree. Courses and extra-curricular activities are not really so far from the day-to-day activities of the workplace, but the onus will be on young people to prove it.
Universities can help here. Incorporating transferable skills into the higher education experience is part of the deal, but some institutions are better than others at helping students to recognise that what they’re learning isn’t, in fact, just academic. The key is to get the message first to the students and then, crucially, to employers.
Small and medium sized businesses might be less hung up on qualifications than their blue chip counterparts, but they’re usually too busy doing the day job to do the lateral thinking. Emerging with a hard-won degree from a top notch institution, it could be easy to dismiss a small business as not offering a ‘graduate’ job. Where’s the training? Where’s the career progression? What about professional qualifications? And businesses can still look askance at ivory towers. But bridging the gap by being explicit about real life skills gathered in pursuit of higher education, and showing an understanding of the range of opportunities in a small or medium sized business could be just what’s needed to grow the economy – and to bring the lost generation in from the cold.