What a big day for Rishi Sunak and young people right across the country!
For the last 3 months we have been working tirelessly with some of the UK’s best youth employment organisations to help build a strong plan for the government to ensure they focus on the needs of young people. We know young people are going to be a group significantly impacted by the economic challenge of Covid-19.
So today we waited with bated breath to see how strong and bold Rishi Sunak would be, would he prioritise young people who are absolutely key to a long lasting economic recovery?
On the face of it, the proposals have been ambitious. Calls that Youth Employment UK, the Youth Employment Group and others have made for an #OpportunityGuarantee have been met with further measures alongside.
Young people will have the choice of paid work (Kickstart), traineeships, sector-based work academy or apprenticeships. There will be more personal support through investment in careers advisers and job coaches, and for those in work but on furlough they can be brought back under the new job retention bonus.
Will there be real jobs?
With boosts to infrastructure funding, the green economy and high demand sectors, along with tax cuts and incentives to drive the hospitality industry it is entirely possible that there will be jobs for young people.
I think it is important to recognise the giant leaps that Rishi Sunak has taken and the commitment to young people and the economy. But as with everything the devil is in detail and there is still much we do not know that will really have a bearing on the success of these schemes.
Some of our BIG questions
We welcome much of today’s announcement but for us, and most critically for young people, the devil will be in the detail:
Kickstarts & Traineeships: Will young people know the difference?
It is great to see work placements being prioritised, but will employers and young people understand the difference between Kickstart and a Traineeship?
- Is there a risk that young people from low-socio economic backgrounds may face challenges in accessing these opportunities?
- How do we assure the money is being used for new opportunities rather than replacing other workers or planned for opportunity?
- And how do we ensure opportunities in every area of the country and not just in the densely populated areas?
Accessing work coaches and careers advisors
We have seen over 400,000 young people visit our free skills and careers content since lockdown began, offering digital support is just one part of this. Young people tell us they want people that understand them and their skills to support them.
- Will all young people be able to access this offer, we know through the Youth Voice Census that only 17% of young people who were NEET (not in education, employment or training) used the jobcentre
- We know you have to provide advice in a youth-friendly way and can the National Careers Service reach and support young people where they are at?
- On top of these is the very big question as to whether the new career advisers will be qualified, according to a NCS Career Adviser job description a good phone manner is the priority?
Apprenticeships for all?
Increasing the number of Apprenticeship opportunities which has to be celebrated
- We have to question whether there will be pathways for all young people, the decimation of Level 2 standards may cause this investment to only apply to young people who have achieved good levels of GCSE or level 3 qualifications?
- Along with this is the challenge that an employer could now choose to run an apprenticeship or work placement, one of these options will be far more complicated and costly.
Good Quality Employment?
Quality is a word used a lot, we have to ensure the concerns about over exploiting these systems are answered.
- How do we assure quality?
- Sunak talks about quality placements and training opportunities but how are sme’s supposed to know what quality looks like and be able to differentiate between a paid work placement and traineeship?
I might suggest the Youth Friendly Employer Badge and support from Youth Employment UK could really help here!
Big questions for now and by tomorrow there will certainly be more. Let’s hope that the government continues as they have in the last few months look to work with the expert groups around them to make sure these policies and investments work for everyone, particularly the most disadvantaged and marginalised in our communities.
But for now Rishi I think you should take a break and drink a nice cup of well earned tea!