Corporate Social Responsibility
The private sector is a major stakeholder in the youth unemployment crisis. Not only do high unemployment rates negatively affect the business climate, but as stated in section two of this guide, the school-to-work transition is exceedingly challenging for young people, and this affects employers as well. Their applicant pools are often not up to company standards for skills and experience. It is therefore in the private sector’s interest to tackle the youth unemployment crisis, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an effective solution.
CSR is a company’s awareness of its impact on society and its choice to commit to a moral code that works to improve the surrounding community[i]. In terms of youth unemployment, CSR programmes are a direct way for companies to educate and engage with young people entering the job market. By implementing these programmes, corporations not only have the power to contribute to the youth unemployment crisis’s alleviation, but also improve their own standing in the eyes of their constituents and the public. Though the following CSR methods parallel the General Approaches in section three of this guide, they are more business-specific:
Businesses are in a unique position to help young people get the work experience they need. Companies that provide internships, traineeships, apprenticeships or other opportunities for young people to work on a temporary or part-time basis give these youths the chance to develop vital skills, add to their CV and increase their employability. Organisations that offer a position at the end of a work placement mean they have acquired a vetted employee who understands the business and requires no training. British banks Barclays and Lloyds are known for offering such opportunities. Barclays reports that 77% of its former apprentices have stayed on[ii]. UK grocery chain Tesco’s CSR programme, which offers scholarships and career advice, provides thousands of apprenticeship opportunities for young people as well[v].
As employers are often disappointed in their applicant pools, many companies are establishing their own training programmes. This form of CSR focuses on education in employability, workplace, entrepreneurship and/or IT skills. These initiatives use company employees, human resources representatives or hired tutors as trainers. Companies can also join networks that have established CSR programmes. JA-YE’s Entrepreneurial Skills Pass project already works with more than 5,000 companies across Europe to provide entrepreneurship education[iii]. To reach a wider audience and increase accessibility to trainings, some companies establish webinars and online networks. Technology giant HP has an e-learning CSR initiative that offers free entrepreneurship and IT training online. This technological approach obviously plays to HP’s strengths[iv].
Working with Schools
Short of education reform, the mismatch between what young people are taught in school and what businesses want in their applicants is difficult to change on a large scale. Change on a smaller scale is more feasible, and businesses are in a unique position to take action. By working with local schools, employees can facilitate workshops, trainings and career days in the classroom, connecting with students as well as teachers. This is the motivation behind many in-school CSR programmes. Exposing young people to local businesses helps them understand what companies want and experience and the opportunities available.
Businesses can also set aside funds to establish scholarships and sponsor young entrepreneurs. CSR Europe, a pan-European organisation, is spearheading an initiative that duplicates Sweden’s CSR approach of financing enterprises[vi].
Aside from the obvious social and economic good CSR provides, there are several direct benefits to companies for pursuing youth engagement and job creation projects. By engaging with young people in schools, trainings and programmes, companies increase their visibility in the community. Providing work experience shows that a business recognises the potential of young people as well as the creativity and fresh outlook they can offer. All these elements reflect positively on the company, improving its brand and reputation. Furthermore, the more businesses work with young people, the more the negative stereotypes surrounding youth will be broken down across the private sector.
[i] Shanaz Musafer. 22.10.2012. Corporate social responsibility: Measuring its value. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19876138.
[ii] Anon. 10.04.2014. How corporate social responsibility switched focus towards L&D. http://www.learndirect.com/business/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/PTLD6-Corporate-Responsibility.pdf.
[iii] Anon. Entrepreneurial Skills Pass. http://entrepreneurialskillspass.eu.
[iv] Anon. HP Life. http://www.life-global.org/en.
[v] Anon. 2014. Tesco and Society Report 2014. http://www.tescoplc.com/files/pdf/responsibility/2014/tesco_and_society_review_2014.pdf.
[vi]Anon. 2014. CSR Europe. http://www.csreurope.org/skills-jobs.