The good news is that there is a tremendous amount of energy and goodwill within Government, as well as in the education sector and industry more broadly, to reverse this trend. The £1bn Youth Contract was launched in April this year, there is a renewed focus on apprenticeships, and business bodies like the CBI are launching initiatives aimed at tackling the crisis.
Whilst we acknowledge and welcome all solutions, we at City & Guilds feel there needs to be a more cohesive strategy across Government that really gets to the heart of the issue and, crucially, is geared towards supporting young people.
Particularly, we believe bringing the voice of young people into the debate will help create better informed, long-term solutions. This is why in February this year, City & Guilds commissioned the first comprehensive study of young people’s views around education and employment since the current economic crisis began.
Our Report, Ways into Work: Views of children and young people on education and employment, provides some fascinating insights from over 3,000 7-18 year olds on their hopes and aspirations and experiences so far of the education and training system.Reading the Report, four key themes emerge where big improvements must be made, and soon, if we are to give young people the chance to succeed in life and save them from the scrapheap of rising unemployment:
Above all, the findings point to the need for better links between education and employment at every level. We now need to act on this knowledge and take action to make sure more young people don’t slip through the system.
Working Together to Get Young People Working
On Tuesday 1 May, armed with the insights from our report, City & Guilds called for an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to bring together key stakeholders across education, business and the Government with a particular remit to investigate and make recommendations on: careers guidance, apprenticeships for young people, entrepreneurship and work experience. We believe that as the UK’s leading vocational awarding organisation, we are well equipped to lead this work, which will seek to get to grips with the root causes of youth unemployment.
I see the APPG working to tackle youth employment in a number of ways. First, we will work to develop careers guidance that is fit for purpose, engages young people and leads to better employment outcomes. In addition, we will consider the reasons behind the decline in the number of young people (16-19) taking apprenticeships and ways to encourage greater participation. Consideration will also be given to the type of support Government should offer to enable young people to set up in business on their own as entrepreneurs.
Creating better links between education and employment means more direct engagement with employers as part of the National Curriculum review; greater emphasis on enterprise and entrepreneurial skills; and most importantly a structured work experience programme that, unlike Alison Wolf’s recommendation, is not left to schools to develop and deliver but is implemented system-wide and begins as early as possible including those pre-16.
We must take action now to work to ensure young people get the advice, experience and teaching they deserve. Politicians, employers, policy makers and sector leaders must start working together to get young people working.
Chris Jones is chief executive and director general of City & Guilds, the awarding body