Yesterday (21 February) Nick Clegg announced further details of the NEET prevention strand of the Youth Contract. The £126 million scheme, which will be in England only, will focus on those 16 and 17 year olds with poor qualifications (without a GCSE at grade C or above) who are outside education, employment and training.
The target group is relatively small at 55,000 or so, but it is an important one. Often these are individuals who will leave school at 16, but will not be entitled to benefits. They can therefore be entirely outside the framework of support to move into employment. It is also a group who are often in need of significant help.
The programme will be delivered by private and voluntary sector organisations and it follows a payment-by-results formula, with contracts worth up to £2,200 for each teenager sustained in education or work for 12 months.
While payment-by-results has benefits, it is not just durations which matter. The quality of outcomes are also critically important. Training and education accessed must add genuine value and increase employability .While entries into low-wage jobs which lack progression can simply result in young people getting stuck in the low-wage/no-wage cycle. The provision available therefore needs to support these young people into sustainable careers. This is often not an easy task; it can require a number of different support services, and needs effective partnership working locally.
Overall, the provision of additional support for this group of NEETs is to be welcomed. The question is, in the context of a weak labour market and changing incentives to remain in education for some, is it enough?
The Work Foundation are currently running two projects which seek to explore sustainable transitions into employment for young people. We will be publishing new research in April, funded by the Private Equity Foundation, which analyses changes in the NEET cohort. We are also currently running a youth unemployment consortium programme, The Missing Million, which will provide recommendations for how we can bring down youth unemployment in the short-term, as well as examining how we can move to a longer-term model of lower rates of youth unemployment.
All blog posts for this author