Coca‑Cola HBC's Matthieu Seguin shares a view on how industry can play a role in bridging the divide between education and the workplace, and help young people to succeed.

"Moving from school or university to the world of work can prove to be a challenging time, with many of our youth finding it difficult to secure meaningful employment. Industry can and must play an enabling role in supporting this transition.

"As a passionate believer in the potential of young people, I know they have the capacity to be future leaders and change-makers for the communities that we live in and businesses that we work in. Why? Because they see no boundaries and can achieve things that no-one else thought possible.

"In today’s competitive international environment, the need to harness the creativity and talent inherent within all our young people becomes even more pressing. To be sure of securing Ireland’s future success, we must look at forging an educated talent base that can seamlessly transition into the workplace.

"However, despite the economic recovery taking hold, the reality is that just over 32,000 young people across Ireland have been unable to make this transition a success and are currently unemployed. Of these 11,000 are deemed to be long-term unemployed. While there are many tailored supports and interventions available to our unemployed youth in this country, the figures remain stubbornly high. We need to consider how else we as business leaders can support this issue to ensure the potential of these young people is realised.

"As business leaders, we have a special responsibility to ensure that the society in which we operate is sustainable and prosperous for all. With our young people having suffered more than most during the recent recession due to a lack of employment opportunities, it is time we put youth development at the centre of our community investment strategies. 

"At Coca‑Cola HBC, we have responded to that challenge by establishing our #YouthEmpowered initiative. The programme seeks to specifically target 400 young people not currently in employment, education or training and who need additional support to get back on the right track.

"Delivered in partnership with Fastrack to IT (FIT), it will provide those aged between the ages of 18 and 30 with a core set of life skills and business awareness skills, not something taught through the education system, that can act as a platform for future success. Entrepreneurial modules cover key competencies such as project management and financial literacy.

"I am confident #YouthEmpowered will provide young people with confidence, resolve, capabilities, and above all, the stepping stone towards a brighter future.

"And our efforts do not stop there – we aim to employ some graduates and our employees will provide mentoring and support during the course of the programme.

"We believe businesses across Ireland can strengthen the bridge crossing the gap between education and work. Whether it be SMEs providing employees with opportunities to speak to local unemployed youth about career development, or large companies putting in place dedicated training programmes, we all have a role to play.

For as the famous proverb states: 'The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.'"

- Matthieu Seguin, General Manager, Coca‑Cola HBC Ireland and Northern Ireland