We were recently discussing, both at home and at work, the lack of students who had approached the firm this summer looking for either summer placements or asking about the possibility of a training contract once formal education had ceased. It is the first time since the early 1980's when there hasn't been at least one letter or one phone call from some bright eyed student looking for a career in accountancy.
It's not just accountancy though. Despite record numbers of youth unemployment and the highest number of NEET's since the acronym was invented clients are telling me that they are finding it difficult to get people who either want to train or worse, people to take posts that are already vacant. I've had one client, a small engineering company serving the aviation industry, who has become so depressed at the lack of interest that they are actually going to advertise in Australia for potential employees. The job isn't paying peanuts either and it is for a company that has its order book full for the next year at least.
Well just when I was beginning to wonder whether or not this was some local phenomenon I came across a letter in the Daily Telegraph from the MD of a small sheet metal company in Bedfordshire.
"We are a small sheet metal engineering company (see I wasn't lying) employing about 30 people. Last June, as the end of the school year was approaching we decided that we would once again take on three apprentices. We contacted the local schools and waited. Not one applicant. Our chief executive telephoned the National Apprentice Service. They were very helpful and contacted all the local colleges who rang us to ask what we were offering. As soon as we said it was a "craft engineering apprenticeship," they were no longer interested. It apprenticeships, management apprenticeships, office apprenticeships: yes, yes, yes, we can offer you any number of candidates."
I have a client in the construction industry who joined the CITB scheme a couple of years ago and still hasn't taken on an apprentice, in fact so desperate was he with the amount of work he had and lack of employees that he has offered part time work to his grandson who also works part time as a fireman!
We seem to have two problems in this country at the moment, too many unemployed and too many jobs in the wrong place or the wrong industries. You can have all the schemes you can dream up as far as incentives to employers go, National Insurance breaks, free training etc but if we still aren't producing students who are actually interested in making anything what hope is there?