Monday April 30, 2012
As CEOs, I believe it is our responsibility to help young people into the workplace. Mike Sunley
In a climate where the rate of unemployed 16-24-year-old stands at 22%, I can’t help thinking that if, as the leaders of UK business, we all did our bit, we could pull together to significantly improve the outlook for Britain’s young talent.
I don't want to enter into a rant about the education system; but I will say how disheartened I am when schools focus too heavily on grade bands and university applications and not enough on ensuring pupils have the essentials to succeed in the employment world: skills such as time management, decision-making, communication and empathy.
As a growing contract caterer, a key concern of ours was to develop a pipeline for chef talent. We sought a solution that would be sustainable for the long term, which would help encourage school-leavers into the workplace, offer them development and help us give something back to the community. Last September, the 'Lex School of Talent' was born.
Partnering with the University of West London, as well as hospitality charity Springboard UK, we designed a two-year apprenticeship programme. This offered four 16-year-olds access to the skills, knowledge and experience of our top chefs (many of whom have enjoyed Michelin-starred careers before joining us), as well as the opportunity to qualify in NVQ levels 1, 2 and 3. They join on a starting salary of £16,000, with all the benefits of a full-time employee, something we are very proud of. Compare this with the £15,000 salary of the 23-year-old son of a friend, who has worked in retail for seven years. Seven years from now, our apprentices could be earning many times that amount...
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