Despite youth unemployment showing signs of decline as the economy continues to recover1, we believe it remains one of the single greatest challenges facing Britain today. And while we already play an important role tackling youth unemployment as a leading apprenticeship provider in Britain, we always strive to do more as we recognise the valuable contribution young people can make to our business, and society. We are therefore committed to creating opportunities that will not only enable our nation’s young people to gain the necessary skills for securing successful employment, we will also nurture them to become the next generation of energy experts responsible for keeping people’s homes warm and well lit in the future.
Teaming up with The Prince’s Trust
We noticed a skills gap was developing among young people in the engineering and manufacturing sectors, so we developed a programme with The Prince’s Trust to plug this gap and give them the skills, confidence and qualifications required to succeed within these roles.
Training was delivered through two four-week programmes: ‘Get into Engineering’and ‘Get into Customer Services’. Through these programmes young and unemployed people benefitted from valuable training and on-the -job experience in the engineering and customer services sectors. As a result of their training, seven of the engineering participants and 10 from the customer service programme received a one-year paid apprenticeship2, while the remaining trainees were offered mentoring from the Trust to help them seek further achievements in other roles. In order to learn more about their experiences the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, met the first apprentices to be employed by British Gas at its contact centre in Cardiff.
Creating further placements
Following the programme’s success, I’m pleased to say that we now have plans to roll-out a further 450 work-experience placements for those not in education, employment or training (NEETs) across the country. The placements will primarily be in customer service and all successful applicants will strengthen their expertise by completing a BTEC in Sustainability.
So, what else are we doing?
While it’s surprising that less than 10% of businesses in England offer apprenticeships3, I’m really proud of our own long history providing opportunities for apprentices. Today we have over 1,100 apprentice positions throughout our businesses; each opportunity enabling young people to learn a range of sustainable skills as insulation fitters or solar panel and boiler installers, as well as gaining invaluable experience through roles in Power, Exploration and Production. To ensure that we continue to provide industry-leading skills opportunities and services for our customers, each British Gas apprentice will receive around 2,500 training hours and we have also already invested nearly £13m across our six training academies this year.
Last year, we also recruited more than 900 young people under the age of 24 into different job roles throughout the country. We’re continuing to invest in opportunities this year which fast-tracks personal development and ensures young people can reach their potential through programmes such as our award-winning graduate and summer placements.
We believe that young people make a substantial contribution to the business world. We will therefore endeavor to meet their needs by providing meaningful opportunities to grow their skills whilst securing the business talent pipeline needed, both now and in the long-term.
Have a look at our 2013 CR Performance Review to find out more about how we aim to care for our people and communities.
1 The current rate of youth unemployment (16-2 years) is 17.8%, down 1.3 percentage points from the previous quarter and 3.1 percentage points compared with 2013: Youth unemployment statistics - Commons Library Standard Note, Published 16 July 2014, Standard notes SN05871.
2 Both apprenticeship programmes are graded at level 2, with engineering roles being carried out with a British Gas contractor.
3 This represents just 11 apprenticeships for every 1,000 employees compared with 39 in Australia, 40 in Germany and 43 in Switzerland. 50% of young people said however that they would have done an apprenticeship had one been available: Report by think tank Demos, supported by British Gas.