This week’s news that UK unemployment is at 2.6m – including a record 1.02m young people – highlights the need for companies to focus more of their corporate responsibility (CR) efforts on employability.
The main challenge is that too often organisations compartmentalise CR as a distinct field of activity that is not interconnected with the core business. So at the same time as they re-structure existing operations, cut recruitment budgets and outsource, they are investing in partnerships with charities around employability.
This means that on the one hand, they are cutting back on ‘employability’ activities internally while actively supporting external organisation who help the unemployed or underemployed. If they integrated this activity – offering younger people jobs, supporting employees in training and development, partnering with local job centres rather than outsourcing – then through their core business they would be investing in the community. And, building a competitive workforce to compete in our high-skilled economy.
This week’s employment news will cause widespread concern. But the reality is that, even when the UK economy was growing rapidly and unemployment was low, this compartmentalisation was still an issue. As highlighted in the recent World of Work Report 2011, if private sector investment had grown at the same pace as GDP between 2000 and 2009, there would be 5.8m more jobs in the advanced economies today.
From the perspective of larger organisations, a real focus on employability will help to solve two ‘old fashioned’ business problems: creating skilled talent and keeping it. A young person who is given a future career in today’s climate may well be categorised as a cost, but they can also be developed into a profit centre for years to come.