Support for First Jobs
29 Apr 2021
Do you think the first job you ever had was a positive experience?
During the Working Group process, members were encouraged to share their own stories of their first job. We wanted them to reflect on how things might have changed but also to see if there was any commonality in their experience and what made their first job a good one or a bad one.
When the working group members described their first job as a positive experience there were some common themes. This included a strong support network who helped them to get the job through their connections or a parent who could provide a lift to those first few shifts. Once they were in work, they benefited from employers who had the time, skills, and knowledge to support a young person’s development. They had someone who could take them under their wing and show them the ropes. When they had a bad experience, this was usually due to a lack of support and guidance as they entered the world of work for the first time.
Reflecting on how things have changed, the working group recognised that and not every young person or employer has access to the support they need to make first jobs work. Without this support the other recommendations, which help young people to access more jobs in a fairer way with more knowledge behind them, are wasted because the jobs do not end up lasting and young people do not feel like they are getting valuable experiences. This is why building ways for both young people and employers to access support in the workplace to ensure first jobs are valuable and long lasting was important to the working group. Importantly, it is about making access to that support more equitable so every young person, no matter their circumstances or the size of their employer, can have a positive first experience of work. Providing mechanisms for support, beyond financial payments, was identified as key to ensure there is the capability from young people and employers to maintain the new first jobs that would be created.
The Working Group developed the following recommendations to improve the Support for First Jobs.
1. Provide support on every step of the journey to employment
Employers need access to a range of support to ensure they can offer good quality jobs and experiences to young people. While financial support is important to aid in the creation of jobs other types of support are also necessary. This includes support to engage with schools and provide work experience through to pastoral care once a young person is in employment, helping with the social and emotional development of their young employees. The challenge for employers is accessing the support needed to engage in these activities, particularly when a young person is not connected to existing government services such as employment services.
In-employment support could be facilitated by access to fee-for-service employment support for a young employee even when they are not connected to employment services. Members highlighted that most executives access a career coach or career support in later stages of their career yet young people entering the workforce with significantly less experience, skills and idea of what to do are not provided the same kind of support. The proposed model would work similarly to a workplace Employee Assistance Program for mental health support but focuses on general employment support. If an employer begins to experience challenges with a young employee, such as not turning up or poor communication skills, they can access the employment support service. Services would be priced to represent a cheaper and more efficient option than simply replacing the young person.
2. Adopt Support Mechanisms that Help Employment Look More Like School
The employers in the Working Group identified that their young employees find feedback very important because it provides opportunity for open communication where topics like their career path and career planning can be discussed. Research has also shown that Generation Z, the newest group of young employees, have high demands for feedback with two-thirds of Generation Z and just under half Millennials identifying they need feedback from their supervisor at least every few weeks in order to stay at their job. Working Group members reported that when they were not able to meet the feedback needs of their employees the engagement of the young person would drop because something had been promised to them and the employer did not deliver.
Adopt a practice and culture that facilitates regular feedback for young people. Members described this as making the workplace resemble things young people are more familiar with. There is an expectation that young people match the needs and ways of working of the employer, but there are areas of training, development and feedback where the employer can match the expectations of the young person. Modelling feedback on a young person’s experiences at school, where they regularly submit work and receive feedback to understand their progress, could help to ease a young person’s integration into the workforce.
3. Peer support networks made commonplace in all businesses
The Working Group supported the idea that young people could benefit greatly from being connected with peers when they start employment. The young people already employed by an organisation can help to guide a new hire through the organisational culture because they have already been through the same experience. They have more recent experiential knowledge of being a young person in their first job and can understand what the young person is going through.
Implement peer to peer learning programs and peer-based buddy programs that are focused on connecting young people with other young employees. This would include creating a process for establishing peer support programs, providing training to young employees who want to participate, setting the ground rules to build a safe environment, and identifying real world situations that relate to the business for the young people to work through
4. Encourage business to share best practice on supporting the engagement and employment of young people in their business
The Working Group recognised that many members have good practices and support models in place to engage young people in thinking about work and once they are in work. Sharing these experiences was seen as vital for enabling more employers to develop their own models.
Develop an online platform which would act as a repository for information on successful support models. The platform would draw together key learnings and help employers see how successful models which have been implemented in other businesses or industries could be applied to their own.
5. Support Businesses to Grow the Number of Supervisors and Mentors to Support Young People
Members identified various barriers, which can restrict an employer’s potential to take on more trainees or apprentices even when subsidies and tax credits are available, namely the capacity of the employer to provide good supervision to a young person. If the employer does not have someone they think can be a supervisor, who requires a certain skillset, then they will not hire any trainees. Growing the pool of potential supervisors within an employer would grow their capacity to take on more young people.
To develop the number of supervisors available at an employer, the Working Group proposed investing in training and upskilling opportunities to increase the number of potential supervisors at an employer. This would mean the employer has more capacity to take on additional trainees because they can be confident, they have the staff to support those young people. Research in Europe has suggested this type of investing in training supervisors is important to ensure they will have the necessary skills to manage students under supervision (European Training Foundation 2013).
By implementing these recommendations there would be more well supported employers in the labour market, who can meet the needs of young people. Ultimately, this would mean that more young people have the support they need to stay in a job and employers feel more confident about providing opportunities to young people.