From education to employment

What’s next for those most distant from the workforce?

What’s next for those most distant from the workforce?

Last month, we wrote to Kit Malthouse, Secretary of State for Education, to express our real concern at the lack of support that will be available to individuals aged 15 to 24 who are not in education, employment, or training once the European Social Fund winds to a close in March.

These individuals are already some of the most distanced from the job market, the hardest to reach and engage and will be left with almost no alternative provision to provide support.

As the government faces its own tumultuous time and the economy seems not just sluggish, but headed for a recession, we know how important it is to speak up for this group.

By Alex Glasner, Managing Director at Workpays

Our letter to the Secretary is below.

Dear Kit,

We’re writing to express our real concern at the support for young people who are Not in Education, Employment, or Training (NEETs). From March next year, there will be no replacement for the support funded by the European Social Fund (ESF). The end of this funding will bring about a gaping hole to support this incredibly vulnerable group. I’m writing to you on behalf of them, the most disadvantaged and most distanced from the job market to urge you to address this as a pressing matter and ensure funding continues as a matter of urgency.

As the country continues to experience a crisis in the cost of living, with inflation and fuel prices souring, the country is already beginning to feel the impact on the economy: vacancies starting to fall, wages decreasing in real terms. At the same time, we know that the UK needs to remain competitive and virtually every worker in the country needs upskilling.[1]1 With changes in the skills needed to succeed globally and an increasingly competitive market, it is important to ensure that the UK is on the front foot and the entire country has the opportunity to support our post-Brexit growth. We firmly believe that it is only through investment in skills that we can weather the oncoming economic storm and come out the other side stronger than before. With investment in training per person half what it is in Europe,[2] we are asking the government to ensure that the funds that are currently in place do not lapse and are allowed to continue to support those who need it most.

However, we also know how important this support is to ensure that we protect our young people from the economic headwinds. We know first-hand the importance of the government’s Levelling Up Agenda – with our area having some of the lowest GCSE marks in England[3] and poverty some of the highest in the country.[4] As a training provider that focuses on provision for NEETs across the Midlands, we know how unevenly these issues will impact our nation. Without funds to support NEETs or those at risk of becoming NEET (RONI), over a million people face the impending threat of long-term unemployment which will seriously impact their life. We are now in real danger of funds stopping and there being a long gap of support, condemning these people and the country to long-term economic hardship as a result.

At Workpays, we work hard to support thousands of young people every year on their employment journey. From supporting people to gain the skills they need to put their first foot on the ladder to giving career advice and helping find an interview and a career, the work we do is fundamental to ensuring not only that our communities can enter the labour market and compete, but that they can thrive in sustained jobs too. We could not do this without the funds that are currently provided by the ESF. When these funds end, we know that the impact will be devastating, not just people with lower skills or a gap in employment, but an entire group of young people who will not be able to find their feet or a path down which to go, impacting their entire lives and future employment. 

We are writing to ask that the government take immediate steps to ensure that these most vulnerable of people can be supported by the proper funds, that funds continue to come to organizations like ours to ensure we can continue our work. We would be pleased to work with the government to create long-term programmes of support for young people in our region and across the nation. We ask that while this is being decided, there be no gap in funds and that we allow those most vulnerable to have the best possible chance in life.

We are still waiting for a response and will update the industry when we hear back.

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