Grace Cowan, Training Director with GTS Solutions CIC challenges some of misconceptions around youth unemployment.
Youth unemployment is a real challenge and in today’s society, it’s harder to get a job. I hear many people say, “I want to work, I just can’t get anything”. Youths in particular struggle to gain employment, but surely fresh blood comes with enthusiasm and new ideas for any company. So why is it that employers avoid the 18-25 age bracket? I’ve heard many reasons from ‘they are unreliable, unskilled, uninterested and just darn right lazy’. Let’s say that word again….Lazy…what does that actually mean? It’s not an emotion we can’t control, so surely it is learned behaviour. Be it from a friend, a neighbour, a family member or the telly, it’s come from somewhere. Laziness is just a habit. You do something enough and it becomes a way of life. The good thing about habits though, is that they can be broken. You just need to have patience and persistence.
I’ve worked in the security industry for over ten years. A few years ago I decided enough was enough. I didn’t want to be recognised as the ‘bouncer on a power trip’, the person who hates customers and throws people out just to give me something to do. Unfortunately, there are still some old school people who work this way. Surely customer service had a bigger part to play; after all, we are the first and last people you see at most licenced premises’. We are there to make sure you are safe. We’ve all had a wine or beer to many on a night out but as a Door Supervisor, I don’t need to wrestle you out the door just to make my point. This is when GTS Solutions CIC formed, a security company that also provides training. A company who works with clients to make sure customers are safe and have an enjoyable experience. And if you have enjoyed your night a bit too much, that’s when we have to become conflict negotiators, carers, first aiders and sometimes handbag searchers (although that part frustrates me, it’s amazing how many people have a small black bag and they all look the same. I never was very good at spot the difference).
At first things were going well, but being a licensed industry, we could only use people who already had their SIA badge. They’d been working in the job for years and knew what they were doing, or at least that was their opinion. I found many who didn’t fit the image I wanted for the company, they weren’t polite, a few weren’t fit enough to run round a building and others just bored and hated their job, not for any reason…just because. That saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ was true in this case, for most at least.
We fell into training 18-25 year olds, and I’ll tell you now, I’ve never been so excited about my work. I’m not going to say it’s easy. Remember how I mentioned about habits? Well, we’ve come across plenty bad ones. From turning up late, mobile phones in class, coming up with fake illnesses (which we all knew meant hangover), giving up at the first hurdle, getting lost on the way to work, language and more. Do you really want me to go on?? But through our bespoke courses which run for 5 weeks, I nagged, and persisted, taught and explained why we were doing exams, I nagged again, encouraged, secretly cried at times because the challenge was daunting, gave away a few trade secrets and told stories about my own career………………………………… and finally got through. I have to stress though that I had the easy part. Can you imagine a 5 week intense course with exams most days, getting up earlier than you are used to, forcing yourself to change your lifestyle and for what – a CHANCE of a job? They all did it; they all stuck it out because they really did want to work. They had a goal, seized the opportunity and did whatever they needed to do to get to that finish line. To have that passion and commitment, I applaud you.
At the other side of the course were students who were more qualified than most in the industry, more customer service orientated, more energetic, smarter and happier. We presented our students to various employers who all said ‘I’m impressed, I want them’. With the students attitudes and presentability and us helping them to gain general life skills as well as recognised qualifications, employers quickly started to fight over them. Hearing that words from the employers, and seeing the grin on students faces, knowing they had just turned the corner on a new chapter of their life…… that’s where job satisfaction comes from.
This age group now plays a big part in our staff team, with the old dogs who could learn, and teach, and the new ones eager to learn more. I can’t help but pop into venues where past students work, quietly taking pride in the fact that GTS could help them to reach a goal. And although some move into other industries that aren’t security related, I still like to think that we helped to break that habit that some employers call laziness.