Sean Williams, Vice-Chair, Members and Nominations Committee, Institute of Employability Professionals

Recent headlines have focussed on the Government's 'Boot Camp' strategy to tackle youth unemployment. 14% of young people are out of work compared to the overall unemployment rate of 5.6%. From April 2017, anyone under 21 will have to take either a job, an apprenticeship, a traineeship or unpaid work experience to receive benefits.

Long-term unemployment is one of the worst things that can happen to you. If you have been out of work for a long time it affects your mental health, your physical health, your self-esteem, your relationships and your well-being. The vast majority of people do not chose to be unemployed – why would you? It is a miserable existence on the margins of society being pilloried by those on the right of the political spectrum and patronised by those on the left.

I have spent my entire working career trying to help long-term unemployed people back into employment. I have seen the transformational impact that finding employment can have on someone who has been out of work for a long time. Supporting unemployed people into suitable, sustainable jobs is fundamentally a good thing to do. It is good for them, for their families, for their community and for society.

Those on the left who are trying to 'protect' people from work need to have a good hard look at what they are arguing for. It was Karl Marx who said 'man is a working animal'. Work is a right. People in employment are healthier, happier and better-off. Arguing that people should be protected from work is like arguing that people should be protected from the National Health Service.

One of the critical things holding many long-term unemployed young people back is a lack of good quality recent work experience. Large gaps in a CV are very hard to explain away. The longer someone is out of employment the more difficult it is to reintegrate into the culture of work. Work experience helps to fill the gap on the CV and improve work skills.

So why is there so much opposition to policy initiatives that want to provide long-term unemployed young people with work experience?

I think that the objections fall into three main categories and I will try to deal with each in turn.

The first is that young people should not be compelled to take up a work placement with the threat of losing their benefits. I have some sympathy for this position but think that it is ultimately misguided for two main reasons. First, one of the side-effects of long-term unemployment and inactivity is that it can rob young people of their drive. A compulsory programme forces people to be more active and increases resilience and motivation levels. Secondly, I do not think that it is unreasonable that society expects young people to contribute what they can. Again, it was Karl Marx who popularised, 'From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.' Unemployed people have a massive amount that they can contribute to society and work experience offers a vehicle for this.

The second set of objections relate to the efficacy of compulsory work experience schemes on people finding employment. Many a lazy blogger has cited DWP's research report into the Community Action Programme (even if they haven't actually read it). It is true that low-quality placements have no effect on an individual's employability. It is also true that work placement programmes with no jobsearch element can actually have a negative effect on an individual's chances of finding employment (this is because doing the work takes away time from applying for jobs). However, we know that good quality work placements are the one thing that really helps the very hardest-to-help young people to find employment. Some of the most successful employment schemes have had work experience at their core (the Future Jobs Fund, Intermediate Labour Markets). The critical thing is that the placements are high quality. Those individuals and organisations actively lobbying charities and others not to take people on under compulsory work experience programmes are making good quality placements harder to find. They are contributing to work placements being less effective than they should be and indirectly decreasing long-term unemployed young peoples' chances of finding employment.

The third set of objections relate to compulsory work placements 'punishing' unemployed young people. Let me again state quite categorically – the vast, vast majority of unemployed people do not choose to be unemployed. Unemployment is bad for people. But if unemployment is bad for people how can getting someone a work placement be punishing them? The work placements need to be high quality, meaningful and respectful. But the objectors to compulsory work placements are not lobbying for better placements. Indeed by asking people to boycott work experience schemes they are lobbying for worse placements. Giving someone a way to contribute to society whilst building their own skills and social networks is hardly 'punishing' them.

The language of 'boot camps' is unhelpful and unpleasant but good quality work placements are a fundamental tool in helping young people find decent, sustainable employment. We should support and promote them.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view a social entrepreneur and consultant, Vice-Chair, Members and Nominations Committee, Institute of Employability Professionals. He advises companies and governments on how best to help unemployed people move from benefits into sustainable jobs

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page