From education to employment

NEETS – how can we reduce the numbers?

According to a recent government report, 963,000 people aged 16-24 were Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) in the fourth quarter of 2014, that’s 13.1% of people in this age group. Not all unemployed 16-24 year olds are NEET and not all people who are NEET are unemployed. 61% of unemployed 16-24 year olds are NEET, the remaining 39% are in education or training. 47% of people who are NEET are unemployed, the rest are economically inactive: not seeking work and/or not available to start work.

In England, the regions with the highest proportion of 16-24 year olds who are NEET are the North East, Yorkshire & Humber, and West Midlands.

The proportion of 15-19 year olds and 20-24 year olds who are NEET in the UK is above the OECD average.

Considerable research has been undertaken into e-learning and its impact on school age pupils and in Higher education. But vocational learners, often those with lower quartile academic ability, are often overlooked. Typically, they will not have done well at school and will not have passed GCSE at A*-C. Post 16, they still need to do English and maths as it is now mandatory, but repeating and re-sitting GCSE is often doomed to failure with just 7% of learners who leave school managing to pass at re-sit. So what can be done to reduce this number?

For these students aged 14 and above Functional Skills – practical skills in English, maths and ICT present a better option by providing an individual with essential knowledge, skills and understanding that will enable them to operate confidently, effectively and independently in life and work. Available in a variety of levels, Functional Skills allow young people to gain a qualification matched to their ability which is reflected in the healthy 63% pass rate. Entry Level 1 equates to National Curriculum (NC) level 1, Entry Level 2 equates to NC Level 2, Entry Level 3 equates to NC Level 3, Level 1 equates to NC Levels 4 and 5 and Level 2 equates to NC Levels 6 and 7.

Unlike GCSEs – short and fat qualifications for which a wide range of different skills are required – Functional Skills are tall and thin and focus on real life skills that students simply need to master and apply.

E-learning plays a particularly powerful role here because it can deliver practice in skills in lots of different contexts, allowing students to practice, practice, practice so that when they do come across a ratio for example, whether that’s in hairdressing or gardening, the learner recognises that as a ratio and knows what to do. Research undertaken into e-learning by the University of Sunderland and commissioned by ForSkills shows that if you can engage a vocational student in e-learning, their chances of successful completion increase. Interestingly, it doesn’t take that much e-learning to have an impact either – just 10-20 hours in most cases. Where e-learning is combined with the results of an on-line diagnostic assessment, e-learning can be used to automatically target the skills areas that the learner needs to practice and improve upon. Basically it delivers what is needed by each individual, making each hour far more relevant and productive and equipping them for a smooth transition into the workplace.

Jonathan Wells is director of ForSkills, which provides diagnostics and e-learning resources for English, maths and ICT Functional Skills

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