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Urgent action needed to tackle and prevent youth unemployment

Lord Shipley, Chair of the Youth Unemployment Committee
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@LordsYouthUnemp – Skills for every young person: Lords Youth Unemployment Committee report

Reforms to Further Education funding, the apprenticeship levy, the skills system, careers guidance and the national curriculum are urgently needed to tackle the problem of youth unemployment, according to the House of Lords Youth Unemployment Committee.

Published today (26 Nov), the cross-party Committee’s report, ‘Skills for every young person’, also recommends a new Education and Workplace Race Equality Strategy to tackle discrimination, a new strategy to tackle skills gaps, and a new, independent Young People’s Commissioner to champion the voice of those aged 16 to 24.

Lord Shipley, Chair of the Youth Unemployment Committee, said:

“Youth unemployment has blighted our society for decades and its impact can endure for years. At 11.7%, the UK’s youth unemployment rate continues to be worse than many other countries, and today more than one in eight (12.6%) of our under 25s are neither working nor in full-time study.

“Over 10 months, we spoke to young people with experience of unemployment, employers, school leaders and experts. Our report makes over 70 recommendations which would help to tackle youth unemployment. We urge the government to act.”

Stephen Evans, CEO, Learning and Work Institute

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute said:

“Too many young people are falling between the gaps of a complicated and sometimes disjointed set of initiatives. The effects of the pandemic have been layered on top of the pre-pandemic challenges of higher youth unemployment and 40% of young people not gaining a level 3 qualification.

“I’m pleased to see this report echo our calls for an Opportunity Guarantee offering all young people a job, training place or apprenticeship. That needs a joined up approach to engaging young people and a more ambitious approach to offering support.”

Kate Green comments on premium for maths and science teachers

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“Young people are ambitious, optimistic and excited for their futures. Yet far too many are being let down by a Conservative government that’s living in the past.

“Labour has set out plans to ensure every young person leaves education ready for work and ready for life, from embedding digital and life skills in the curriculum to placing an expert careers advisor in every school, helping to set young people on the path that’s right for them.

“Employers and young people are calling for change. This should be a wake-up call for the Government.”

Julie McCulloch, Director of Policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“We’re stuck in a wretched cycle of high levels of youth unemployment while at the very same time there are skills gaps and shortages in industry which damage the country’s economic prosperity. The Covid pandemic has clearly made this situation even worse, especially for young people but also for some groups of adults. It is very obvious that something must change in order to ensure that more young people and adults have the skills needed by industry.

“This report on youth unemployment makes sensible suggestions of a fresh look at the curriculum, better access to high-quality careers education and advice, and an improved funding system for further education, among other recommendations. The details of exactly how this might be done are debatable but the focus is correct, and the government should take heed. Ministers talk a lot about a skills revolution but in reality the government has starved further education of sufficient funding, undervalued its contribution, dismantled the national infrastructure for careers advice, and relentlessly driven the value of a traditional academic curriculum at the expense of vocational and technical skills.

“The government is setting great store by the introduction of T-levels to improve matters, and we welcome these new qualifications, although not at the expense of successful qualifications such as BTECs. But this strategy doesn’t go nearly far enough, and simply has to be backed up with a significant improvement to 16-19 funding and a wider, not narrower, qualification offer to young people.”

One in five of all 18-year-olds are currently not in education employment or training (NEET)

The latest NEET statistics from the Office of National Statistics, show that 631,000 (9.3%) young people are not in education, employment or training (NEET) – one in eight of all young people. At no point this century have fewer than one in ten young people been NEET, regardless of the strength of the jobs market.

Today 475,000 (7%) are unemployed. 21.8% (141,000) of 18-year-olds are neither in full-time education nor work with training.

Steve Haines, Director of Public Affairs at education charity Impetus

Record vacancies sounds like an opportunity for these young people – but many need extra support to be ready for work, Steve Haines, Director of Public Affairs at youth charity Impetus says it is essential the Government tackles young people’s barriers to work to address record vacancies:    

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“It’s easy to assume that record vacancies means there are opportunities for all young people. This is not the case – many young people need additional support before they are ready for work.

Supporting this group who have historically been overlooked is essential if the government wants to meet its aim to have strong economic growth, low inflation and low immigration . We cannot go on wasting young people’s potential if we are to build back better.”

An Impetus spokesperson added:

“The latest ONS statistics show 650,000 young people (aged 18-24) neither earning nor learning (NEET) – one in eight of all young people. At no point this century have fewer than one in ten young people been NEET, regardless of the strength of the jobs market.”

“Our Youth Jobs Gap research showed that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are twice as likely to be NEET compared to their better-off peers.”

These systemic problems require systemic solutions:

“We support the report’s call for change. The government has done well to reduce youth unemployment over the last year, but with vacancies at a record high it’s never been more important to address the decades old NEET challenge.”

“We’re particularly pleased to see the inclusion of an Opportunity Guarantee, which we have been calling for as part of the Youth Employment Group.”

“It’s easy to assume that record vacancies means there are opportunities for all young people. This is not the case. Many young people need additional support to be ready for work. Supporting this group, who have historically been overlooked, is essential if the government wants to meet its aim to have strong economic growth, low inflation and low immigration. We cannot go on wasting young people’s potential if we are to build back better.”

The devil is in the detail:

“There’s lots in there, and there’s a danger that a report that covers so much ground will never get off the ground.  We need to focus on what is truly needed: a joined up system focussed on getting the young people’s furthest from the jobs market into work, with an opportunity guarantee at its core.”

COVID-19 was a perfect storm for youth unemployment. 70% of employee job losses were amongst under-25s. At its height, unemployment rates reached nearly 15%, and some groups were hit even worse, with the rate for young black people skyrocketing to over 40%. In March it was predicted that the economic and fiscal costs of youth unemployment could reach £10 billion in 2022.

The Committee’s key findings and recommendations include:

  • There are skills gaps and shortages in a variety of existing and emerging sectors, damaging productivity. The Government must develop a long-term national plan for identifying, anticipating, measuring and addressing skills gaps and shortages with a focus on the needs of the digital and green economy. To ensure young people are equipped with the essential knowledge and the technical, cultural and creative skills the economy demands, the Government must recalibrate the compulsory components of the national curriculum and performance measures, putting skills development at the centre.  
  • Access to high quality careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) enables young people to understand all the possible careers and routes open to them. The Government must make CEIAG a compulsory element of the curriculum in all schools from Key Stage 1 to 4 alongside religious education, and sex and relationships education, as part of a Career Guidance Guarantee.  
  • Further Education has been undervalued and significantly underfunded. The Government must devise a new method of funding for FE, determined by student demand, and students accessing the Lifetime Skills Guarantee at levels 2 and 3 should attract automatic in-year funding determined by a tariff. This would ensure the availability of places, and result in extra funding so that institutions can recruit high quality teachers and obtain the latest industry-standard equipment.  
  • Apprenticeships are in short supply, and current funding mechanisms tend to benefit older, more experienced workers. The Government must require that any employer receiving funding from the apprenticeship levy must spend at least two thirds of that funding on people who begin apprenticeships at levels 2 and 3 before the age of 25.  
  • Some groups of young people face additional barriers to work, including Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups, those disadvantaged by socio-economic background, and those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). The Government must launch an Education and Workplace Race Equality Strategy, focussing on removing barriers including mandating regular collection of data. It must ensure every disadvantaged young person has access to tailored careers guidance.  
  • While the Government has introduced measures including Kickstart, Careers Hubs and Youth Hubs, youth unemployment policy is created in silos, resulting in a confusing landscape of initiatives and a lack of accountability at the top. The Government must appoint an independent Young People’s Commissioner to be the voice of youth aged 16 to 24.

The report follows a 10-month inquiry carried out by this special inquiry committee.

This cross-party committee is chaired by Lord Shipley and its members include the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord (Ken) Clarke of Nottingham, former Education Secretary Lord (Ken) Baker of Dorking, former Director-General of the BBC Lord (Tony) Hall of Birkenhead, and Lord Bishop (Libby) Lane of Derby.


Youth Unemployment Committee to hear evidence from the Office for National Statistics

14th September 2021: The House of Lords Youth Unemployment Committee will be hearing evidence from Darren Morgan, Director of Economic Statistics Development at the Office for National Statistics.

This session, which will start at 10.15am, will be held remotely and streamed on Parliament TV.

Topics the committee is likely to cover include:

  • How the ONS defines, captures, analyses and interprets statistics on youth employment and unemployment, and how the process could be improved.
  • How today’s youth unemployment rate compares to that of recent decades.
  • How accurately data collection methods capture personal characteristics such as data on hard to reach ethnic minority groups like the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community.
  • Whether other sources of data, such as the claimant count, provide an accurate reflection of the number of young people who are out of work.
  • How the Government uses ONS data to design and implement effective policy interventions for young people.

Recently the committee took evidence from the Employment Minister, Mims Davies MP. You can watch the session back on Parliament TV.

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