Employability for disengaged young people

Employability is certainly a buzz word today, and at a time where unemployment rates are twice as high among young people than in the adult population we need to take notice. Essentially employability depends on a number of elements not limited to:
• Your assets in terms of the knowledge and skills (particularly transferable) that you possess.
• The way in which you use those assets and skills.
• The way in which you present these assets and skills to your prospective employers.
Even young people ‘successfully’ completing school and university are being found wanting when it comes to many of these transferable skills. Skills such as self reliance; self awareness and the ability to self promote, possess a positive ‘can do’ attitude, people skills; including the ability to communicate effectively with people at many levels and work effectively as a team, functional skills; particularly problem solving, numeracy, written communication and IT skills.
Prospective employers are faced with more and more young people who are leaving school and education unprepared for the world of work that lies ahead of them.
This is perhaps even more poignant for those young people who haven’t completed education and have become disengaged. In 2007/2008 there were 8, 130 permanent exclusions in Primary and Secondary Schools across the UK (DCSF). Whilst this was a decrease from the year before, it still represents 11 pupils in every 1000. So what happens to those young people who have become apathetic, even depressed about their future? Are we doing enough to give these young people the tools they need to succeed in life; the opportunities to have a successful and fulfilling career despite failing in education (Or perhaps I should say education failing them!)?
It is a sad truth that many young people experience low aspirations, low self esteem and poor motivation which effectively means they are likely considered unemployable to many. Clearly these obstacles must be addressed if our young people are to engage in developing the communication and employability skills necessary for success. Many practitioners at schools, colleges, training providers and youth organisations are faced with these challenges every working day. So how do we go about transforming low self esteem, improving motivation, raising aspirations and thus improving the employability potential amongst our young people? How can we ensure that young people can begin to live with purpose and positivity and therefore have a lasting foundation of personal power and employability? Furthermore how can we achieve this in a way that young people feel empowered and inspired to change from within?
There are many initiatives and programmes out there to improve employability. The most successful are those that don’t stop at providing traditional knowledge and skills but also focus on the transferrable personal social attitudes, values and skills required for success.
Here are my 5 top tips for practitioners wanting to improve employability among disengaged Young People:
1. Do something different
The disengaged young person is in this situation for a reason. What they need is something different, something fresh, relevant; something that will motivate and inspire. Creative lesson plans that are interactive, stimulating, involve them and respect all learning styles are going to go a long way to achieving this.
2. Inspire them
Find out what makes them tick, you may have to dig deep as they may well not have a clue themselves. Find creative ways to discover what they are passionate about and show them that it is achievable. Build self esteem to create a foundation where they can recognise that they set the ceiling on their achievements and that the one common denominator in any measure of success is themselves. Show them that anything is possible. Share success stories from others in their position; let them see and know that they can achieve their dreams and aspirations.
3. Listen to them
By engineering an environment of respect, where young people feel genuinely listened to; this will ensure they feel comfortable to allow their voice to be heard; a necessary process for re-engaging those who have become alienated from the process of achievement, personal development and learning. It is so important to listen and understand your learners. Make yourself available to them when they need you, so they know they have a strong support system around them. Nurturing their need for belonging through respect and acceptance will go a long way to re-engaging and keeping them engaged for a long time to come!
4. Believe in them
One thing is for sure they need a huge dose of self belief and as a practitioner working with young people that has to start with me – that means me not buying into any of their negative self-talk, it means me looking past their learned behaviours. Holding a positive vision for each and every young person has got to be the starting premise for change to happen. Next we need to find creative ways for them to challenge their self image themselves, so they can begin to see what we see! Follow this through with praise and acknowledgment for the effort and changes that they are making!
5. Have fun and make it fun!
Don’t take yourself too seriously; remember you are working with young people! They will appreciate your humour and candidness. One of the essential needs we require to be met as a human being is to experience fun. When this need is met by our direct learning experience we are assured of their attention and their engagement. Create a strong bond with them and build up trust. Don’t ever give up, no matter how challenging it may be.
Working with disengaged youth can be challenging, enlightening, inspiring, exciting and incredibly fulfilling… I for one highly recommend it!
©July 2010 Glenn Perry, United Kingdom

3 thoughts on “Employability for disengaged young people”

  1. The very long winded beginning to this segment put me off going further because I am already aware of the difficulties adolescent’s have, which is why I clicked on it in the first place. I feel that the subject is “the disengaged teens” rather than their employability at this stage. Whilst all the sections and remarks are perfectly valid, the approach was rather simplistic. I wanted to keep asking “but what do we actually do”? Some of the other segments do address this very well so I moved to them.

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