Hot on the heels of the recent government concession on the apprenticeship levy, slightly worrying advice arising from the Young Workers Index. The news is that we’ve all got to be more like the Germans.
PwC – the global consultancy company – produces a Young Workers Index every year. It measures and monitors how countries are developing the economic potential of youth – and how it changes over time.
And, here’s the important bit, the Index estimates the potential gain from getting young people into employment, education or training.
Yup. Sounds a bit dry – but bear with us. If you’re reading this as a Uni’s not for me regular, it’s all relevant to you. Because, how countries engage their 15-24 year old NEETs (Not Employment, Education or Training) has a huge impact on a nation’s wealth.
The 35 countries in the Index are all members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). They’re mostly from is sometimes referred to as the “developed” world. Those that make or produce stuff in other words.
It’s through people being productive that pays for the things that matter in a modern society like the NHS, pensions, social care and so on. Making sure that young people get the best opportunities to get decent employment is particularly important as our population gets older.
PwC estimates that improving performance of younger workers in the long-term could benefit the OECD countries’ economies by over $1trillion. (And, that’s a lot nearer a trillion quid now!)
Predictably, Switzerland tops the list of countries that offer the best opportunities for their young people. Germany and Austria are up there as are the Nordics. Spain, Greece and Italy don’t do quite so well.
And the poor old UK doesn’t really do very well either, coming in at 22nd out of 35.
PwC estimates that if the UK could lower NEET rates to German levels, GDP could be around 2.3% higher in the long run, equivalent to around £45 billion at today’s values. To give that some context, it’s just under half of what it costs to run the NHS a year.
So what are the Germans doing right that we aren’t?
Followers of Uni’s not for me will probably not be surprised to learn that the answer lies with a more imaginative approach to education, with much more engagement with employers from an early stage. The German “dual education system” combines vocational training with classroom education to give students practical experience of the workplace. And, there’s an emphasis on social inclusion to tackle any barriers to employment.
Youth unemployment in Germany is around 10 per cent – it’s around 17 per cent in the UK and in Spain, it’s nearly 46 per cent.
But things are looking up. Jaguar Land Rover, (who we are about to feature in Uni’s not for me) is held up as an example of how it’s taking on many apprentices from an early age, combining formal learning with vocational qualifications and engineering degrees.
And there are lots of other employers who, facing a real shortage of well educated school and university leavers, are taking matters into their own hands.
So, lassen Sie uns mehr wie die Deutschen sein (and let’s hope Google Translate is right!)