Britain is creating a permanent underclass excluded from the prospect of employment, warns Adecco Group in research released today.

Almost three quarters of UK employers believe there is a permanent underclass emerging, whose education and background leaves them largely unemployable. According to research released today as part of the Adecco Group’s ‘Unlocking Britain’s Potential’ initiative, business leaders now recognise that certain sections of society are increasingly disengaged from the world of employment; a trend that needs addressing urgently if organisations want to access a wide and diverse pool of talent.

The research reveals that 73% of employers believe that a ‘permanent underclass’ is emerging within UK society which threatens to exacerbate ongoing problems of skills shortages. This feeling is echoed amongst UK workers, with 84% of UK employees fearing the development of a ‘permanent underclass’.

As the UK’s largest recruiter, Adecco Group is challenging businesses, Government and educators to come together on 21st February to join a major debate and agree a plan of action to engage with all sectors of society, creating job opportunities and addressing our endemic skills shortage.

Whilst they acknowledge this growing issue, the majority of employers are still taking little, if any, positive action to engage with disenfranchised sections of society. The research reveals that over half (57%) of employers do not have an apprenticeship programme in place to help young people into the world of employment. This is in spite of the fact that 51% of employers believe that apprenticeships provide a cost effective resource; 50% believe they help to fill a skills gap; and 46% believe they help to better align employees to the organisation’s culture.

Chris Moore, Managing Director of Adecco Group Solutions, comments: “Employers need to act now to stop the rot and expand their horizons to identify new, untapped pools of talent. Taking on young people from diverse backgrounds is not just good from a corporate responsibility perspective; it actually benefits the organisation in terms of innovation, culture and, ultimately, bottom line performance. We need to move away from this out-dated notion that apprenticeships are only for blue collar jobs; there is unquestionable evidence to prove the value apprentices bring to all types of business. Similarly, businesses need to start recognising the potential benefits of offering work experience to young people and providing them with an inspirational introduction to the world of work; surely there can be no better, easier way to engage and attract new talent.”