Amanda Coleman, head of corporate communications at Greater Manchester Police, suggests the industry is not doing enough to attract young people to its virtues as a future career
Getting your first step into any career is a huge challenge particularly in these times of austerity. The resources available to help them decide on their future and then try it out are just not there anymore. Many schools have had financial support cut for work experience programmes and young people are leaving university without some of the skills to find a job in their chosen profession.
So what does all this mean for public relations and why should we be bothered about the young generation? It means a lot. The future of the public relations profession rests on those that are entering at a junior level.
Are we really encouraging young people to consider it as a viable career? I have visited a number of schools during recent months to talk about careers in public relations, media and communication. It has been a revelation and eye-opening.
Firstly, very few young people really knew what public relations was but more shocking than that was the complete failure to consider or question how the media get news stories. Many young people I have spoken to, and the group now numbers more than 100, have no desire to question the validity of what they learn from social media through computer screens let alone through the television.
It has been necessary to use the latest world events to try to demonstrate who is involved with the news and what the job is. In doing this, I hope I have opened up their minds to the possibilities of a wider range of careers in the creative industries.
Young people will never be able to understand what careers exist if they are never given access to people doing those jobs. I was lucky to have a friend whose relative was a journalist and at the age of 16 was able to get experience in a newsroom. That experience just confirmed that it was the job for me and made me even more focused that I would get to work in that world. It took another six years but that is eventually what I did.
The cost of attending university is now making young people think much more seriously about what career choices they want to make. If they are not going to delay entering the world of work by studying, then what pathways are available?
Apprenticeships are now an alternative and a way to get into work at an earlier point in life. A recent House of Commons briefing paper revealed that apprenticeships in the arts, media and publishing are very few and number around 1,000 compared to 93,000 in health, public services and care.
Greater Manchester Police recently recruited our first specialist apprenticeship in the field of social media. It is in the early stages but has already had an impact within the team. Our apprentice has brought a new, young perspective into the team. We share knowledge and experience but also it forces us to think about the work we do often without thinking. I will know at the end of the 12 months whether it is something to consider in the future composition of the team.
Developing the future communication and public relations talent has not been something on our list of priorities. It doesn’t appear to feature in the aims and mission mentioned by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and the Public Relations Consultants Association.
Yet this should be our daily priority. We should all be looking at the opportunities we have to both promote public relations and explain what it is and does.
More than that we need to find the ways to bring young people into public relations and communications to give them that much needed first rung on the ladder of their PR career.