A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
At the Regional Youth Work Unit – North East, we’re a ‘glass half full’ team; we like to seek out the silver linings hiding behind every problematic issue. There’s too much doom and gloom out there already and we don’t like to perpetuate those pessimistic vibes.
This approach has never rung truer than with regards to our approach to youth employability.
With 950,000 young people aged 16-24 unemployed from February through to April 2013, this issue is as prevalent as ever, especially here in the North East, as our region has the highest rate of youth unemployment, standing at 10.1%.
Commentators such as the International Labour Office and Institute for Public Policy Research talk about a ‘scarred’ generation that will find their future prospects and earnings seriously hindered by today’s unforgiving jobs market.
Taking that first step onto the career ladder, or looking to break that old conundrum of needing a job to gain experience, but needing the latter to secure a role in the first place, aren’t new obstacles. But the current economic climate has exacerbated this issue.
Young people are now competing with a plethora of more experienced individuals who have made been redundant from their jobs and who have a proven track record when it comes to demonstrating their skills and knowledge. There’s also the rise of part-time and temporary roles, as well as unpaid internships, making stable, well-paid full-time jobs all the more lucrative.
Reducing the Gap
Unlike some stereotypes in the press which depict swaths of young people who are unwilling to work, our findings suggest that a majority of young people do want to work, but crucially, the support networks to help them achieve this goal either do not exist or are patchy in quality.
We found that young people don’t feel equipped with the skills and knowledge that employers are looking for, and they also express dissatisfaction with the careers information, advice and guidance available. The quality of opportunities available to gain employability skills and practical experience are also inconsistent across the region.
We took these findings and used them to help inform and devise our own employability programme: Reducing the Skills Gap. The programme looks to address six key skills which employers have cited as lacking in some young people today, delivered via five sessions over the course of three weeks.
The participants’ progress was tracked via a skills questionnaire and each young person attended an interview with an employer at the start and also the end of the programme. A week’s work placement was also incorporated into the programme.
Reducing the Skills Gap boasted a 100% retention rate, with 60% of participants successfully entering employment following completion of the course. A success by all accounts – we’re now looking to up-scale and roll out the model across the region in the coming months.
As mentioned in an earlier blog post, we have been working with Big Lottery’s Talent Match programme, undertaking youth engagement in both the north and south of the North East region.
Feedback from the young people we consulted with, was on the whole, very encouraging (in that most were keen to work and view it as a priority) and it was also in keeping with our own Reducing the Gap findings.
Young people perceive employment as a pathway to stability, a better life and feeling valued.
In terms of the barriers that are holding them back – a lack of opportunities, confidence and discrimination were all identified.
More quality work placement opportunities and help with CVs and interview techniques were just a few of the solutions suggested by the young people in helping them seek employment.
So what does this all mean? Don’t believe everything you read in the papers – a lot of young people are eager to enter the world of work; they can see the opportunities it presents and the potential it holds to transform their lives for the better.
But like anything in life, a little support – and crucially the right kind of support – can go a long way, something our training programme has already proven.
So let’s talk about youth employment as opposed to unemployment, and focus on developing the skills and aspirations of our young people, and let’s work together to combat this spiralling issue before this generation are indeed ‘scarred’ for life.
Regional Youth Work Unit – North East