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Youth unemployment: could tech help?

Charlotte Jee | Oct. 26, 2015
Last week the Cabinet Office ran an all-day 'Job Hack' hackathon aimed at solving a long-term, intractable social issue: young people not in education, employment or training - dubbed 'NEETS'.

Last week the Cabinet Office ran an all-day 'Job Hack' hackathon aimed at solving a long-term, intractable social issue: young people not in education, employment or training - dubbed 'NEETS'.

matt hancock flickr cabinet office
About 15 percent of 16 to 24 year olds in the UK are NEETS © Flickr/Cabinet Office

About 15 percent of 16 to 24 year olds in the UK are NEETS - for a vast, complex web of reasons, including roles as carers, childcare arrangements, disabilities and criminal records.

Can a hackathon solve youth unemployment? The answer is no, obviously not. But could tech and digital tools help make life a bit easier for people looking for work? Definitely.

The Cabinet Office managed to pull together a diverse group of people for the event, including government officials, developers, designers, career advisors and (no doubt carefully selected) young people.

They were given a range of existing datasets- including employment statistics, job vacancies, earning outcomes and apprenticeship vacancies, and asked to design applications or solutions, which will then be presented to Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock (pictured, on the day).

There was a decent turnout at the event and the participants seemed genuinely enthused by the idea of helping to solve such a difficult social issue. Their understanding and empathy for jobseekers' experiences and how they interact with government services was impressive.

One app developed by Francis Irving, CEO of ScraperWiki, rates job listings by how helpful they are for jobseekers - whether they include salary, location and whether the role is full or part time, for example.

This could be used by the government to encourage recruiters and employers to advertise all job adverts in the same format. This would make it easier and more consistent for those looking for work online, something officials are actively working on now, he said.

This will help solve a real problem: research by the Citizens Advice Bureau found a pitiful 12 percent of online ads had all the information recommended, such as the employer, location, hours, salary and so on.

This wastes jobseekers' time and makes it harder for them to find suitable jobs so anything to help fix the issue would be a good step forward.

Other ideas presented included apps to connect young people with mentors, analysis of 'The Student Room' website to identify user needs, an app to help map career paths and an app to identify local apprenticeship opportunities nearby.

Most of them seem worthwhile, so we can only hope the government continues to back this work and it doesn't meet the fate that so often befalls hackathons - that they become a one-off event with no real impact.

 

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