Youth Employment: Policy Update

16 August 2023

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We have been extremely pleased to see a range of political interest in the issue of youth employment over the recent months.

This blog aims to highlight the progress that has been made in this area, our recent involvement, and what we would like to see happen next!

Youth Employment

We know that young people face disproportionately high rates of unemployment. As of October 2022, the unemployment rate among young people (aged 18-24) was 7.5%, compared to 3.5% for the whole population.

Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are 50% more likely to be not in education, employment or training (NEET) than their better-off peers, even if they have similar levels of qualifications. Work experience and employment opportunities are affected by where you live and your family’s income – in more affluent areas and families, work experience and employment are more readily available.

Young people are over-represented in sectors that are expected to see lower employment growth and/or automation in the long term, and where vital ‘stepping stone’ mid-skill jobs are in decline.

The economic cost of youth unemployment (i.e. lost national output) is forecast to increase to almost £7 billion in 2022. The long-term ‘scarring’ effect for young people (i.e. lost earnings, damage to employment prospects) is forecast to be £14.4 billion over the next seven years.

Youth Employability and Youth Work

UK Youth and other research bodies have found that youth work is an effective intervention for youth employability and therefore a key part of the solution for youth employment concerns. Youth workers have a role to play in supporting young people’s employability but also face many barriers in carrying out this role.

Youth workers are able to be the essential trusted adult in a young person’s employability journey. Youth workers support young people’s wellbeing, increase self-esteem and agency, facilitate skills development, adapt their approach to best suit each individual, and are also well equipped to prepare young people for the future of work.

UK Youth’s Work

At UK Youth we run a number of programmes focused on employability, one of which is Hatch, run in partnership with KFC. Hatch is an employability programme which provides workshops and paid work experience placements for young people aged 16-25 who are not in education employment or training, or are at risk of being so. Young people go from local providers, via employability training, into work experience with KFC.

We are also supported by Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) to run a programme called Building Connections. This programme aims to invest in youth work to enable youth workers to create stronger pathways to employment for young people.

Training and support is provided for youth workers and young people receive light touch interventions to think about career planning. Curriculum-based employability programmes are most impactful when they signpost to and enable continued, long-term opportunities for young people to progress their development and allow youth organisations access to sustainable resources (including funding, volunteers, and training).

Our Untapped Report, found youth work to create an indirect economic benefit to England of £3.2 billion, of which £0.8 billion of benefit was from increased employment and education. This report has formed the basis of our policy and influencing work on this agenda, and across the area of youth work.

Youth Futures Foundation’s Youth Employment Toolkit

The Youth Employment Toolkit is a free online resource that presents summaries of evidence on interventions that are used to help young people who are out of work get jobs. This first edition of the Toolkit contains information about seven different kinds of intervention.

The evidence for each intervention highlights the impact and costs associated, as well as the strength of existing evidence for the benefit of the intervention. For example, when looking at mentoring and coaching, the evidence collated by Youth Futures Foundation shows that that mentoring and coaching are likely to have a low positive impact on youth employment outcomes, as a component of a youth employment intervention.  The evidence strength is determined to be moderate and the costs moderate.

The Toolkit also presents information about how the interventions can be implemented, descriptions of the kinds of evidence that were used in the underlying research, and links to additional resources. The Toolkit can be used to help develop programmes to support youth employment.

APPG on Youth Affairs Report: Empowering Youth for the Future of Work

Following an inquiry, in which UK Youth submitted a response, the APPG on Youth Affairs published their report on Empowering Youth for the Future of Work. We were pleased to be able to attend the launch of the report in Parliament, and hear from the young advisors who were involved in creating the report.

The recommendations focus on a range of developments from Government, such as the need for a long term National Skills Strategy, a review of the Apprenticeships Levy, and investment into young people’s mental health services.

We were delighted to see the need for investment in youth services highlighted as a recommendation, to provide extracurricular activities to support young people’s development and strengthen partnership, collaboration and coordination between schools and youth providers.

We know that youth services and youth work can play a vital role in supporting young people to develop soft skills and be ready for work, so it is great to see a drive for this acknowledgement and investment across the sector.

APPG on Youth Employment Report: Place Based Approaches to Youth Unemployment

The APPG on Youth Employment also recently undertook an inquiry, looking at placed based approaches to youth unemployment, UK Youth submitted a response to the inquiry.

The key findings of the inquiry show that place really matters and plays a very important role in supporting young people to find opportunities and services to help them move into the world of work. They also highlight the intersection between economic and social deprivation and place, which has a huge impact on rates of unemployment and opportunities.

Place based approaches to tackling youth employment are shown to be effective, particularly when they involve collaboration, tailoring services to the needs of young people and the labour market, involvement of youth voice, early intervention and access to long term funding.

Recommendations for the Government include the establishment of a Youth Employment Taskforce, the use of Youth Hubs to support at risk young people, a long term strategy for youth employment, funding at a local level to tackle unemployment, and embedded youth voice into all place based solutions and services.

Recommendations for Government

It is great to see such a range of focus on youth employment, and its many factors and angles, in the youth sector policy world over the last few months. At UK Youth, we also believe in many of the proposed recommendations for the Government to help create change.

We feel the Government should increase investment into youth services to ensure youth services are able to continue and expand to be available for all young people, as well as investing in an equipped, inspired and interconnected workforce.

We believe that solutions need to be co-designed with young people. The Power of Youth Charter, provides a framework for organisations to involve young people to shape decisions and make a positive difference. We would also like to see a more joined-up approach to connecting young people with local jobs, including closer working between businesses, local authorities, job centres, the youth work and care sectors, private organisations, and charities.

We agree with the need for a redesign of the apprenticeship levy to provide greater flexibility so it is able to be used for different types of training programmes including employee support initiatives and the development of ‘soft skills’ essential for progression, alongside providing a greater role for businesses and youth organisations in designing post-16 qualifications and development of skills that will prepare young people to enter the workplace. 

It would be great to see the Government champion youth work and youth organisations as a mechanism for helping to create positive change for young people when it comes to employability, and we will continue to advocate for these changes at UK Youth.

For more information please contact Kate Roberts (kate.roberts@ukyouth.org) at UK Youth.

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