Are we failing to support young people into employment? By Meg Kneafsey
Nearly 12% of 16-24-year-olds in the UK are currently considered NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). This increase demonstrates a failure within our society and by our government to adequately support young people as they transition into the workplace. It is not only a struggle for young people who experience the hardships of unemployment mixed with a continuing fight with little support, but is a strain on our economic and country – and particularly on our ageing population.
On the 1st December, I was invited to present alongside YEUK CEO Laura-Jane Rawlings at a Westminster Briefing on Supporting Young People into Employment through my role as a YEUK Ambassador. This was not only a great opportunity for me, but a way that I could truly help convey a young person’s experience of job seeking today. Unfortunately, this is often forgotten about by many organisations designing plans to tackle youth unemployment – simply asking young people what they think!
It was fantastic to be in a room full of organisations and people motivated to help young people including the Young Women’s Trust, Catch 22 and various County Council representatives. Every person I met was deeply committed to tackling this issue and vocal that there currently is not enough being done. So why is this the case, and what can be done to change this?
For me, I do believe the government, schools, and organisations are trying their best to tackle it. There are new initiatives being created each year including the recent ‘Youth Obligation’ included in the Welfare and Reform Bill. These do indeed help some young people but are simply not doing enough to address this systematic issue at the core.
Firstly, schools are pressured into a one-size-fits-all policy. Overworked, career advice is secondary to many teachers’ responsibilities. Having a dedicated member of staff could seriously alleviate some of this pressure. Furthermore, schools shouldn’t be valued by the numbers of students they send to university. This standard results in many young people being pushed to apply for university courses they are not interested in and leaves them without the appropriate support.
Schools should also be given funds and resources to develop alumni programmes. These can be networks for young people whilst at school and after they have left to access. These give young people mentors who come from similar backgrounds as themselves.
We should place an emphasis on peer-to-peer support. Although it is important to meet people at the top of their career and hear about their experiences, ultimately, they entered the workplace many years ago, hearing from other young people only 5 or so years older can be extremely useful as their experience is more relevant to the current job market.
Are youth employment issues going to be solved soon? Probably not. It is frustrating to know that as we try and test different initiatives, young people are struggling still. We must support organisations like Youth Employment UK that put young people’s experiences first and are fully committed to this issue.
Meg Kneafsey is an Ambassador for YEUK and a youth campaigner and activist. She works for several different charities in the UK and overseas. You can follow her on Twitter here.
YEUK’s Youth Ambassadors are a dynamic team of volunteers who work together to help YEUK tackle some of the youth employment barriers young people experience. Find out more about the Ambassador scheme and how you can get involved here.
View the presentation slides from the briefing here