Today's young people, tomorrow's workforce

At O2, we’re passionate about helping young people to develop the skills to succeed. Our award-winning Think Big programme is designed to help young people to take action on the issues that matter to them, developing their leadership and entrepreneurial skills and inspiring them to take more control of their futures.

Over the last 5 years, we’ve been proud to support thousands of young people to kick-start brilliant ideas for positive social change. We believe that by harnessing the skills and talents of young people, and matching this with training and investment, we can drive real change in communities across the UK. But importantly, we’re also enabling young people to change their perceptions of themselves – helping them to build confidence in their abilities and develop tangible, transferrable skills that will increase their chances of finding a job or starting their own business.

Today sees the launch of a new report from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, which underlines the important role that volunteering and social action can play in improving employability – and also in helping employers to identify and select the best talent for their business. The report highlights that 67% of employers surveyed agree that entry-level candidates who have social action experience demonstrate more employability skills. The top three skills cited by respondents were teamwork (82%), communication (80%) and understanding the local community (45%).

However, whilst there is growing recognition of the role that social action can play in equipping young people with essential work skills, the report also finds that many employers are failing to recognise volunteering and social action experience during the recruitment process.

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD said, ‘A key challenge for recruiters is that candidates often fail to highlight their social action experience, unless given the opportunity to do so, as many still regard traditional work experience as being more important to employers. By failing to uncover this experience during the recruitment stage, employers could be missing out on enthusiastic individuals who have precisely the types of employability skills organisations tell us they need and struggle to find.’

At O2, we know that Gen-Y are increasingly savvy about ethical and responsible business practices, and we find that promoting our commitment to social and environmental sustainability is a key way to attract talented young people who share our values. Our early careers programme, Talentum, highlights the role that our Think Big programme can play in helping young people to develop skills that will make their application stand out. We also offer hundreds of work experience opportunities through GoThinkBig, helping young people to gain valuable insights into working in a fast-paced digital business.

Candidates invited for interview are actively encouraged to talk about extra-curricular activities, including volunteering and social action, in order to demonstrate the range of skills and experience that make them a great fit for our roles. And we don’t stop there. As part of our induction process, we encourage employees to continue volunteering and sharing their time and talents to make a difference to the issues that our customers care about most. In another recent blog, I also highlighted how young people recruited via our early careers programme and Think Big are already helping us to innovate and build a diverse and inclusive talent pipeline that is shaping the future of our talent and recruitment strategy.

As proud supporters of the #iwill campaign, O2 is committed to helping young people to lead positive social change – helping them to gain skills and experience that will support their transition to employment. And as an employer, we’re committed to highlighting the role that social action can play in helping candidates stand out from the crowd. We hope that other businesses will join us, and ensure that young people have the opportunity to showcase their skills and tap into a pool of talented individuals that otherwise might be overlooked.