The Youth Employment Summit 2015
As with any event that focuses on youth unemployment in the country, it is important to remind the existing seriousness of why the situation still needs a lasting solution. With the current rate of youth unemployment standing at 743,000 as of March, in relation to a total of 1.84 million according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). It is a worrying to think of how many of those, are young people who have been unemployed for over twelve months. We find that many young people face overwhelming challenges in the job market.
The Youth Employment Summit, organised by the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion and sponsored by YEUK’s friends, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, the course of the day was chaired by YEUK CEO, Laura-Jane. As part of the six-strong youth panel that would be fielding questions throughout the plenaries in the agenda, it was my role to try and challenge some of the views of those with influence, as well as give a picture of what action needs to be taken by the conclusion of the event.
The event had a wide pool of debates and ‘free-flowing’ workshops in which the panelists, as well as audience members, could get stuck into throughout the day. Starting with the political
representatives, with one young MP candidate, cases were put forward for what they would do for young people by: Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green policies in this election campaign. It was perhaps all the more relevant that they could be heard from young voices, even if it was knowledge that was widely known in the media. Policies spoken of included the abolition of exploitative Zero Hour Contracts (Labour), living wage towards £8.10 an hour in most parts of the UK (Greens) and, more controversially, the cut of Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) for those 18-21 and unemployed for over six months (Conservative). Curiously, issues surrounding carers education failed to be raised by any of the speakers and was subsequently challenged by YEUK Advisory Board member and Director of The Found Generation, Andrew Taggart.
With over 27% of the young unemployed stretching over the 12-month mark, it was time for organisations that included familiar names such as NIACE and Tomorrow’s People to bring some of their solutions to the table. For NIACE, it encompassed three main points:
- Apprenticeships Charter
- Effective learning routes
- Improve the system for young adult carers.
(An overall manifesto of recommendations can be found on their website)
Likewise, for the Black Training and Enterprise Group, it was about addressing the strong inequality of apprentices, with only 10% black people in a role, and how Job Centres provided inadequate facilities to be inviting for young people. Solutions, such as having a mentor to provide support, would increase greater likelihood of success.
The afternoon plenary took a more enterprising look at how young people can have better chances in life by taking direct action. This included an impressive speech by the CEO of the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE), Johnny Luk, who advocated the growth of enterprise societies in university and where young people would have strong opportunities in adulthood. For organisations like The Prince’s Trust and Catch 22, it was time education was steered away from a wholly academic path and that more employers had the chance to connect with young people.
It would be a tall order for the youth panel to summarise individually on their findings for the summit, but many strong conclusions were pulled together. For myself, it was a case that a new deal is needed on careers education and for service users to directly influence on the needs of students in schools and how it needs a firmer approach by the incoming government. Additionally, it was a great missed opportunity by the charities of the youth sector to pull together a collective youth manifesto which could address the vision they want for young people, regardless who is in power after May 7th. As spoken by one of the organisers at Inclusion, many politicians had become complacent about the decrease of youth unemployment, so now was not the time to turn away from the problems which remain. Andrew, who has recently launched the manifesto of the Found Generation, highlighted the necessity of a youth employment minister in government and the value of self-employment to receive more financial support.
With the demands of a future government shaping up, a Convention will be hosted now in November. Youth unemployment is falling in most areas, but at a rate which can hardly be assumed as fast. 2015 is the year to start creating that agenda for government the Summit here did just that.