As a property maintenance firm says young British youths are failing to grasp available employment opportunities, Channel 4 Jobs Report looks at whether a bootcamp can improve attitudes to work.
Youth unemployment may have skyrocketed to 22.5 per cent. But property management company Aspect insists that fewer young people are applying to their entry-level jobs and that it isn’t getting the applicants it needs.
The company used to receive 50 to 60 applicants for an entry-level post, but over the last six to eight months, this has dropped to between 15 and 20.
“There has particularly been a drop in UK nationals applying,” Will Davies, Aspect managing director told Channel 4 News. “It does suggest that they’re not taking these opportunities and perhaps their foreign counterparts are. We can only go with what we see: eastern Europeans and Antipodeans have been applying as hard as they ever have. We want to see some UK nationals do the same.”
We came to the conclusion that there was a bit of apathy out there. We’ve been in a recession for so long and rather than looking for work, they’re saying ‘we won’t even bother’. Will Davies, Aspect MD
The drop in entry-level applicants may be down to young people simply not being aware of the vacancies. Job-seekers could also be carrying out a more focused search and applying for the jobs they are more qualified for. Mr Davies acknowledges that the reason behind the fall in applicants is unclear.
“But we came to the conclusion that there was a bit of apathy out there,” he adds. “We’ve been in a recession for so long and rather than looking for work, they’re saying; ‘We won’t even bother’.”
Setting up a bootcamp for 18 to 25-year-olds at the company’s headquarters in Earlsfield, south London, and encouraging unemployed young people to apply, was the solution. Advertisements were placed in the Evening Standard, social media outlets and in south London jobcentres. The aim of the bootcamp was advertised as shifting “young people’s poor attitude to work”.
Over a series of excercises to test their physical strength, and skills in literacy and maths, this group of young people are marked on ability. The top-scoring four applicants to get through to the final round are tasked with building a wooden frame, with an apprenticeship with property management company Aspect for the winner – worth between £18,000 and £20,000 a year.
However, of the 14 participants who showed up out of the 40 who applied, many are already in some kind of work or training. The majority could in no way be described as apathetic under-achievers, and have the “can-do” attitude and bite-sized motivation-speak that would put BBC’s The Apprentice participants to shame.
“If you’re not in it, you’re not going to win it,” John Taylor told Channel 4 News.
At only 22, he nonetheless has around six years experience, most recently working as a solar engineer for two years before being made redundant.
Despite the rigorous competition, and being marked against fellow participants, he is keen to take part. “You’ve got to try and succeed. If you don’t try, you’ll never win,” he adds.
“I’ve always worked really – and have done bits and pieces in construction,” fellow competitor Mark Grady, 24, told Channel 4 News. “I work for my dad at the moment but I want a proper career in a company like Aspect to help support my family. My little girl is three and a half.”
A career as a tradesman, or engineer, can be lucrative. A junior trainee will be on around £25,000 but this rises to around £35,000 working as a solo handyman, and £45,000 a year if specialist skills are learned on the job, according to Aspect.
I’ve always worked really – and have done bits and pieces in construction. I work for my dad at the moment but I want a proper career in a company like Aspect to help support my family. Mark Grady, bootcamp participant
The top earners at the company are gas engineers, who can bring home £80,000 to £90,000 a year depending on the hours worked.
This secure route up the career ladder is what has drawn today’s applicants – even if they are aren’t the unemployed, demotivated group that Aspect was expecting.
Mahammed Laouar, 26, has a varied CV, having worked as a chef at Nandos and in hotel maintenance in the two and a half years he has been in the UK. “I want to find work with a good company – a serious job, then maybe I will stay in each job for longer,” he told Channel 4 News. “I think because I can do so many things, I am the kind of person to learn quickly.”
For some participants, though, the bootcamp is too much. Halfway through the second session in the gym, one decides he has had too much and walks away, bag in hand.
However, Aspect denies the focus on competition and rigorous testing will be bad for morale or self-esteem. From the job-seeker’s point of view, it is an opportunity to get an insight into working as a tradesman, meet other people in the same position and find out what employers want, Aspect says.
“Going to a lot of interviews and being rejected is bad for morale,” said Mr Davies. “We’re not trying to say ‘life is a breeze’ – it’s not easy, but there are opportunities out there. All we can do is encourage people and ask them to take part.”