“Kids today, they aren’t as employable as they used to be!” says recruitment firm

March 1st, 2012

Some PR stories follow so clear a rule of thumb it becomes redundant to go into too much detail – a great example of this is recruitment PR. Take this tale from the Daily Mail and Daily Express, which tells of a generation of employees who are totally unequipped for the workplace:


SCHOOL leavers are being sent back to the classroom by their employers to “de-text” their language.

Bosses say increasing numbers of young recruits are unable to communicate with customers in formal English. 

Instead they use “text speak” and litter emails with abbreviations and obscure acronyms.

Now senior business figures are urging the Government to take action. They believe social networking has created an underclass of prospective employees who lack the basic skills needed to secure employment.

So, kids today are inequipped to function in the world of work, and it’s social media and text messaging that’s to blame? Why not throw in alcopops and rap music while you’re at it, and go the whole stereotypical hog.

A couple of things stand out about this story, to me:

Some of the claims made across the stories are quite remarkable:

[Youngsters] only know to interact with short “text speak” to save themselves time, so they start using text speak in conversations

Youngsters only know how to interact that way, or is it that they also know how to interact that way?

Heavy use of Twitter and Facebook is isolating staff because relationships are all through a machine

An interesting claim – and one we’re given absolutely no proof for.

We have instances in offices where people would rather sit at their desk and send e-mails to each other next door than walk around and have a conversation.

Instances? Are we to believe this is a behaviour so entrenched in the nation’s youth that it deserves to have them written off in headlines in the papers, or are these merely ‘instances’?

So, let’s take a look behind the story. From the Mail version:

Research for Adecco found that 52 per cent of employers believe the British school system is failing to equip youngsters for the world of work.

Adecco – the recruitment firm – tell us that people leaving school are unemployable because of all those things that youngsters today do that the generation or two above them didn’t do. This is just another example of the generational decline narrative, which we’ve seen before on this site – decrying the youth of today is a handy storyline that reliably makes headlines.

February, however, must have been quite a hard month for Adecco – because while they’re now telling us that Britain’s youths and school-leavers are an unemployable bunch, as recently as January 16th they were telling us:

UK employers rate school leavers over graduates

One fifth (18 per cent) of UK employers believe school leavers make better employees than university graduates, according to new research from Adecco Group UK & Ireland, the UK’s largest recruiter. 

It’s almost as if recruitment firms will say anything at all, so long as it gets their name into the news…