Experience and youth are essential in business

Mark Barnard explains why employers need young minds

Youth unemployment exceeded one million in the three months to September, and the total number of jobless in the UK has climbed to 2.62 million. It's a frustrating time for anyone trying to find a job, but with a record 25 per cent of 16-24 year olds without work and not in education, the poor state of the employment market is being examined in detail.

Employment minister Chris Grayling has blamed the eurozone crisis for the rising rate of joblessness in the UK, and MPs are under growing pressure to thrash out a plan to create much-needed jobs. Measures must be taken to reduce the country's high rate of unemployment, but getting more young people into work, or helping them get the training they need to find a job, has been given the most attention - and deservedly so.

Young people looking for full-time work are at a distinct disadvantage to more experienced candidates applying for the same role. Practical knowledge and skills count for a great deal in the present climate, meaning that those newest to the jobs market often lose out. But young people who are willing to work hard and eager to learn deserve a job just as much as older applicants, and more must be done to champion their merits and to encourage businesses to take them on.

Apprenticeships and internships have been hailed as potential saviours for unemployed graduates. At a recent summit on apprenticeships, business secretary Vince Cable announced a scheme involving making cash payments to smaller firms that take on a young apprentice. But this simply doesn't go far enough. Why not extend the reward to firms that put their faith in the younger generation by giving them permanent entry level or training positions? Doing so would not only stimulate fresh ideas, but also encourage employers to hire young people and teach them a profession.

Each new generation of workers brings a new set of innovations with them. Young minds are unrestrained by years of working in a particular way, or following a prescribed method. Some of the best business ideas come from young people, and their kind of blue sky thinking (to borrow a term from the boardroom!) is exactly what our economy needs.

The government must educate businesses about the benefits of having a blend of youth and experience in the workplace and ensure that current fears that we are creating a lost generation do not become a reality.