O2 and Bauer Media have pledged to commit £5 million towards developing skills in young people through work experience, in a joint scheme called GoThinkBig.
Over the next three years, the scheme will offer 30,000 work experience placements, or work skills opportunities, for 14 to 25-year-olds across the UK.
GoThinkBig is a platform designed to offer young people careers advice, funding, and experience from a range of employers.
O2 and Bauer aim to offer an initial 9,000 opportunities through GoThinkBig by October 2013, which will also include internships, apprenticeships, graduate roles, funding for community projects and places at a newly-created Think Big school.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “GoThinkBig is an innovative social action project that will offer incredibly valuable opportunities to Britain's aspiring young people who want to get on and get into work.
“This is a fantastic commitment by O2 and Bauer Media and I congratulate them on their effort to get young people the skills they need – and help Britain win in the global race.”
A study commissioned by GoThinkBig revealed young people aged between 16 and 25 do not know where to go to find work experience or to learn work skills.
Of the 1,125 young people questioned, 41% said going to work with a family member is currently the easiest way to secure traditional work experience.
Employers were also surveyed finding that 42% of 500 UK businesses believe skills and experience is the most important thing when assessing a job candidate. Two-thirds (69%) of businesses said they do not formally publicise their work experience opportunities for young people and only 24% said education is more important than relevant work experience and skills.
Ronan Dunne, chief executive officer (CEO) of O2 said, that while 25% of O2’s workforce is aged under 25, he recognised that young people today are facing some of the toughest employment challenges ever.
O2 and Bauer are asking employers to make their own work skills opportunities available through the GoThinkBig website.
“All businesses, big and small, have a role to play in helping support these young people on their journey to work and each of us can benefit by bringing fresh thinking into our organisations," he said. We aren’t just talking about the traditional two-week work experience slot but all those opportunities that can help young people gain work skills,” said Dunne.
GoThinkBig stresses that other opportunities can be made available, such as volunteering, work skills days and project funding.
Dunne said O2 wants to encourage young people to be confident in the value of their skills to prospective employers: “Businesses in turn need to recognise the value that young people can bring – they are the future fuel of the economy and form the generation that will help pull us out of recession. For GoThinkBig to realise its full potential, we need other businesses to join us on this journey.”
More on education
Paul Keenan, chief executive of Bauer Media said the company’s editors and programmers have seen a shift in what youth audiences are concerned about.
“They are now talking as obsessively about their careers – and about how to start them – as they are about their social lives and relationships. They’re anxious about the future, asking for help and looking for encouragement and inspiration,” he explained.
He added: “O2 and Bauer share a common belief that, rather than a ‘lost generation’, we need to inspire a ‘reboot generation’ – a generation that will dictate our future prosperity.”