It’s not all about the numbers
Written by Caroline Roake, Head of People at Livity
There were lots of interesting and opposing views expressed in response to a recent Guardian article about the rising NEET (not in employment, education or training) figures among young people.
Firstly, the article highlights how confusing the figures are – from pointing out that the DfE’s NEET stats always increase from the summer to the early autumn (should you really class someone as NEET who is between courses?), and you can always find a positive stat to outweigh (at least partially) any negative sounding one, e.g. steady increases in 16 to 18 year olds in education or training.
Having said that, everyone knows unemployment is a huge and scary issue at the moment, regardless of age, but among young people it seems more dire as they are ‘the future’.
One Guardian reader comments that the focus should be on improving career guidance services rather than pumping money into youth work efforts to combat the problem (i.e. prevention rather than cure) – we certainly see very few teenagers who feel well supported by the free careers guidance they are offered, and many who aren’t aware of the options available to them, so this seems like a good place to start. With money now going directly to schools instead of being controlled by local authorities, maybe this could happen?
Perhaps if there were improvements in this area more young people would see the benefit of pursuing a (relatively) stable, vocational career, rather than one where there is so much competition that it’s often only those who can afford to work for free until they get a foot in the door can succeed, which is common in many companies in the creative industries.
Stories such as this one about a 23 year old grad who pursued work experience in her area of interest (journalism) but then tried to get employment in something most would think requires relatively little training (retail), highlight this issue of employers wanting more experience than is fair to expect from this demographic.
Employers should not keep young people in the catch 22 situation of only considering those with experience or a degree. We know first-hand that there is amazing untapped energy and talent to be found in young people, including those who haven’t been to uni!
Apprenticeships can be a way to bridge this gap – offering employers a more cost-effective and supported pair of hands, and offering young people a way to learn on the job in roles that may not otherwise available to them, and gain a qualification that in many cases will increase their confidence and motivation. The issue is ensuring the qualification is nationally recognised, and that this becomes a sustainable means of employment for the young person rather than a one-off.
Encouraging entrepreneurialism is another way that some young people with a genuine flair for it can get out of (or not become a part of in the first place) the lack of jobs available right now.
On a positive note, there are always encouraging stories even in these difficult times (many that come straight from Livity!), and we should work together to change attitudes and find solutions, rather than dwelling on figures and which government to blame.