From education to employment

Supporting Newcastle’s Young People aged 16 to 25 years into Further Education, Training and Work

student working

NEWCASTLE Council’s Economy, Jobs and Skills scrutiny committee have this summer set up a Task and Finish group to explore ways of supporting young people across the city aged 16 to 25-years into education, employment and training.

Although most young people aged 16 to 19-years in Newcastle and the region as a whole are in some form of full-time education, apprenticeships or traineeships, there’s still a significant minority who are classed as NEET – not in education, employment or training. According to the Council’s Inclusive Economic Strategy, the city has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment or NEET in the UK.

There has been a sharp increase in the numbers of young people aged 16 to 24-years who are either ”officially” unemployed or classed as NEET in the period October to December 20222. Nationally the total number of NEETs has risen to 788,000 from 724,000.

The latest figures for Newcastle reveal that in December 2021 and January 2022 the city’s ‘NEET/Not known figure for 16 to 17-year- olds was 7% – the highest in all of England’s core cities. Disadvantaged wards with the highest NEET are Elswick, Walker, Benwell and Newbiggin Hall in contrast to Gosforth with the lowest number in the city.

The implications are serious for business, the wider community and public services. Being NEET is often related to young offending, weaker performance at school, mental well- being, early parenthood, relationship breakdown and addiction. According to Professor Robin Simmons of Huddersfield University spending long periods of time outside education or work can have a ”significant scarring effect’ on young adults. For Simmons, ”there are damaging long-term effects associated with being NEET which extend into adult life”.

Being NEET also has a huge socio-economic impact. Research by Bob Coles of York University notes that there are significant lost tax revenues linked to long-term unemployment. But the ”scarring” consequences of being NEET relate to extra public expenditure on health, adult social services, benefits and other forms of support. That’s why policy-makers and local politicians are concerned with how to engage or re-engage NEET young people in education and paid work.

We know that many NEET young adults both in the city and elsewhere in the North-east face huge individual barriers to participation. These include young people’s skills and qualifications; their motivation to education and jobs and social, emotional and behavioural ‘problems’ and mental health.  In Newcastle 14% of known NEETs report mental health issues as a barrier to entering work There are 50 Year 12/13s with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) who are NEET representing 13% of the NEET demographic.

Other barriers exist on a more structural or organisational level such as the quality and accessibility of advice and guidance services and the availability of suitable post-16 education and training opportunities.

The Task and Finish Group will:

  • Draw upon a range of sources including experts from both the City Council and partner organisations who work with young unemployed people or those at risk of becoming NEET;
  • Identify what the Council and relevant anchor institutions like Newcastle College can do to ”actively” support young adults to enter or remain in post-16 education, work and training;
  • Explore the experiences and pathways for your people, including opportunities for training, employment and education.

Earlier this year Newcastle City Council and its partners unveiled a bold and ambitious Inclusive Economic strategy.

Our remit is to help to make this a reality by re-engaging those who are currently excluded from the jobs market and training opportunities both in the city and elsewhere in our region.

By Stephen Lambert

Stephen Lambert is a Newcastle City Councillor. He is vice-Chair of the Economy. Jobs and Skills committee and chairs the  Task and Finish Group –  ‘Supporting Young People (Aged 16-25) into Education, Employment or Training.

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