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It’s time to throw young employees into the deep end

This article originally appeared on City AM.

It takes a village to raise a child – so goes a famous African proverb that describes the role of entire communities in nurturing a safe environment for a child to grow.

To me, however, this is a maxim that should extend to a young person’s transition into adulthood, and how we continue to shape them through employment.

Young people between the age of 15 and 29 currently comprise 35 per cent of the UK workforce, and are set to represent 50 per cent of the global workforce by 2020, according to KPMG.

For businesses to succeed, they need to think positively about the potential of young people in bringing about change and growth.

Millennials – a term given to the generation reaching young adulthood in the twenty-first century – are ushering in a new workplace culture, introducing unique values, different perspectives, and changing expectations from the workplace.

A study from the Institute for Public Relations found that 47 per cent of millennials consider workplace diversity and inclusion important when searching for a job. Working with people in this age bracket also marks an exciting opportunity for businesses to capitalise on a young person’s desire to learn and find their feet.

Their fresh perspectives and energy are infectious, and they push themselves to make a lasting impression.

Being an organisation that appreciates the value of young employees is critical to moving a business forward. But it’s also important to remember that only organisations with the culture of continuous learning will make the most of this potential – giving young people responsibility from the outset – and essentially throwing them into the deep end.

While some organisations may be reluctant to put young people in a position where failure could be the outcome, the Global Shapers Annual Survey 2017 says: “Accepting failure as a learning experience shows millennials’ propensity for innovation, risk-taking, and exploring the unknown. Such qualities add value to businesses, and allow young people to develop their own professional potential at the same time.”

Giving young people the chance to fail or succeed delivers the same outcome: an opportunity to learn.

Whether culturally or technically, some young people have not been properly prepared for the workplace, and may require supervision and additional training. But businesses should not be put off by this.

Consider the constant changes happening in the technology industry, which make it difficult for universities to keep curriculums up-to-date with new techniques. This means that, when graduates enter the workplace, businesses need to upskill them to meet the demands of their organisation.

The millennial generation has a desire for immediate gratification, and feeling unprepared for a role can be frustrating. This is where training academies – a stepping stone between higher education and employment – could be a credible addition to a university education and the gateway to an efficient workforce.

Specialist training academies can upskill young people through specific job-related training and prepare them to hit the ground running.

By Purnima Sen