Why businesses have a responsibility to inspire the younger generation

By Dickie Donovan, HR Director at William Jackson Food Group

With the current unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds standing at 13.6%, the education and unemployment of young people continue to cause discuDickie Donavan, HR Director at William Jackson Food Groupssions in the business world. Couple this with significant skill shortages in food and drink manufacturing, engineering and construction, and it’s clear that the business community needs to do more to bridge this gap.

British food and drink manufacturing is facing a staggering skills gap with 170,000 vacancies needing to be filled between 2010 and 2020. Young people today have more choice than ever when it comes to choosing a career so ensuring businesses play a part in their decision-making process is key to tackling the shortage.

Without enough skilled workers businesses may become less productive and the strain on resources may render them unable to meet consumer and supplier demand. Given the fast-paced nature of the food and drink industry, it is crucial that businesses do as much as they can to entice the younger generation and nurture their employees to ensure success in the future.

It is pivotal that throughout education students are aware of the opportunities available and are working hard to be involved in a career that they feel passionately about. In order to raise awareness about the industry, business leaders ought to consider training courses and joint initiatives with local education partners. Providing young people with first-hand insight to the industry will not only help them make informed decisions but will also shape them into future leaders dedicated to affecting positive change.

At William Jackson Food Group, we work with local education partners, encouraging our colleagues to talk to young people about the varied careers on offer in the food industry, we help them with their CVs and work experience and have our own in-house Graduate Development schemes.

Within the Group, our partnership with Hull University Business School offers selected colleagues a unique two-week training programme to develop their skillset and broaden their knowledge of the six-generation family business. As well as academic lectures, individuals also take part in sessions focused on business strategy, the dynamics of the food industry and team building exercises. In the second week of the course, participants put into practice the skills and knowledge gained and deliver presentations about business strategy to Board members.

Initiatives like this are key to inspiring the next generation of leaders as well as businesses’ current workforce. Raising awareness about the industry will help tackle skill shortages and foster future business growth, while also helping the next generation make informed choices. Offering their time and knowledge is a small investment that can help businesses achieve a mutually-beneficial relationship with the next generation of leaders, and allow them to influence and shape the workforce of tomorrow.

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