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Rhian Johns
Director of Policy and Campaigns, Impetus-Private Equity Foundation
Rhian  Johns

How we get Britain’s youth working

Authors: Rhian Johns Rhian Johns, Director of Policy and Campaigns, Impetus-Private Equity Foundation

07 October 2013

Although, as you would expect, the policy announcements made at the three party conferences were very different, they did have one thing in common:  How do we get our young people working? Both on the main conference floor and in the numerous fringe events, answers were sought on how to solve the ‘youth unemployment crisis’.

With over one million young people out of work, the UK has one of the highest youth unemployment rates across the OECD.  This is certainly an issue which requires focus from government, employers, schools and the social sector.  However, during our fringe events, co-hosted with The Work Foundation, we were keen to remind policymakers that by only focusing on the young people who are out of work today, we neglect the entrenched structural issues.  Youth unemployment is not a new phenomenon; it has been on the rise for over a decade.  For the sake of future generations we must also implement policies that ensure our 14, 15 and 16 year olds are being adequately prepared now for their transition from education into employment.  

This is not an ‘either/or’ choice.  Yes, we must support the young people who are struggling to find work today, but more employers must be encouraged to take on trainees and apprentices providing qualifications, valuable work experience and a full time job once completed.  We also need to consider the children within the education system and what can be done now to adequately prepare them for the employment market.  A school’s primary objective is for young people to gain qualifications and whilst this is incredibly important more must surely be done both within school and outside to equip young people with the skills, qualifications and experience today’s employers require.  High quality, locally relevant and face to face careers, information advice and guidance can play a huge role in helping young people make the right choices about the most appropriate career path.

The political parties are right to have all raised youth unemployment as an area of concern, we would urge them to also think about the next generation.  What was missing from all three political parties was a clear vision of what kind of youth labour market we want in the UK.  Germany was cited many times as a great example of what can be achieved, but always followed by the retort  “but we are not Germany”.  So, who are we? What is our ambition?  My vision is for a UK youth labour market with clear and valued academic and vocational pathways to employment.  A system where educators and employers, the social sector, parents and young people collaborate together. Where as a society we are not satisfied until every young person is supported to gain the qualifications, skills and work experience required for them to make a successful transition from education into employment.