The employment outlook for young people in Britain today remains challenging. A government report last month found that, in the second quarter of 2013, 960,000 people aged 16-24 were unemployed, up 9,000 on the previous quarter but down 57,000 on the same period in 2012.
The overall trend has been edging the right way since headlines were made after the number of young people out of work passed the one-million mark in 2011, but the recovery has been slower than anyone would have liked.
For those businesses in the fast-evolving media sector, the need for youthful self-starters, who are now digital natives with an intuitive grasp of how best to use mobile, social and the web, is critical. So it is no real surprise, perhaps, that the sector has taken such a proactive role in improving the situation.
This month marks the first anniversary of the ambitious GoThinkBig initiative, conceived by Bauer Media and O2. Based on research that found more than 460,000 16- to 25-year-olds had not been able to gain work experience relevant to the career path they wanted to follow, GoThinkBig.co.uk is a one-stop shop for young job-seekers.
With £5 million in funding, the site has in its first year offered more than 9,000 placements and generated more than 3.5 million page views. Last month, the BBC became the 26th media owner to join the GoThinkBig programme, sitting alongside the likes of ITN, MediaCom, Channel 4, Spotify and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen. The initiative has garnered support from Westminster, and GoThinkBig representatives met with Nick Clegg only last week.
Lucy Banks, the executive creative director at Bauer Media, says: "GoThinkBig has exceeded all of our targets for its first year in terms of visitors to the site and the placement opportunities made available through the amazing calibre of high-profile media partners to have joined the initiative.
"In 2014, we will be developing GoThinkBig further, by creating a social network within the site through which users can connect and communicate with each other, and we hope to develop more media partnerships and so create more job opportunities going forward."
Banks adds: "Some young people who had placements have landed full-time jobs already, and those who haven’t have gained some valuable experience that will definitely help level the playing field in a business that can still be about who you know."
Another success last year was the IPA’s first foray beyond its Ad School creative programme, which regularly places around 30 graduates into agencies, to find opportunities for school-leavers. The resulting IPA Creative Pioneers Challenge, run in association with Metro, helped place 28 apprentices last year.
Media agencies in particular have been open to taking school-leavers, with Aegis Media placing eight youngsters within its data and social media teams. Other media agencies to take part in the first year of the programme included All Response Media, MEC, Mindshare, OMD, Starcom MediaVest Group and ZenithOptimedia.
Janet Hull, the director of marketing at the IPA and executive director of the Creative Pioneers Challenge, says: "The industry is doing more to develop talent than ever before. This is being driven by demand for fresh talent from the business, to bring a new perspective and digital expertise.
"Last year, IPA members took on 924 grads – we are expecting this figure to break through the 1,000 mark in 2013/14. This is great news for the advertising industry, which in the past has been accused of spending too much time poaching talent and not enough nurturing it."