NEETs: Intervening for a better future

This article first appeared in the August edition of C’llr Magazine

Young people that don’t manage to access the jobs market by the age of 24 often suffer
consequences for the rest of their lives. This is why it is so alarming, both socially and economically, that around one million young people in England are NEET (not in
employment, education or training) – almost one in six of all 16-24 year olds. Not surprisingly, the recession has made this existing problem, even worse.

In May, the Work Foundation published: ‘Lost in Transition? The changing labour market and young people not in employment, education or training’. This made clear
the scale of the problem: nationally more than 450,000 young people
have never had a job.

It is important to remember that the causes of becoming NEET can vary: they may include a role as a fulltime carer, or long term health issues and disability. Young people
are also competing for service sector jobs in an ever more international arena. So no single policy intervention will support all young people in to their first job.

However, there is evidence that it is the lack of what the Work Foundation calls ‘soft skills’ – such as ‘communication, team working and customer service’ – vital in our post industrial economy – that can lead to NEET status.

What can we do?

The Work Foundation argues that it is ‘transition’ from education to a first job that creates the highest hurdle. Some young people are stuck in a trap where a lack of skills means that they cannot get a job, but that lack of a job means that they cannot develop the skills they need.

This is where intervention needs to be targeted. This is why, here in March 2012, 5.2 per
cent of 16-18 year olds were NEET compared to a national average of 5.7 per cent.

Our efforts include:

• Funding our excellent NEET service through a company jointly owned with Nottinghamshire County Council. This company is tasked with tracking and supporting young people into education, training or employment and deploying personal advisors targeted at the most vulnerable.
• Introducing a new Nottingham Jobs fund which subsidises young people’s employment
for a year. This has proved extremely successful and we have expanded the scheme on
the back of high demand. £2.5m will be invested in the jobs fund over three years, supporting 400 young people into work.
• Developing a progression agreement between schools and colleges in Nottingham so that young people make effective transitions and are supported in further academic progress. More of our schools are offering practical skills through vocational qualifications. We have introduced strategies that will help identify young people who
are at risk of becoming NEET, so that we can provide support and intervention when it’s needed.

In preparation for the national change which will increase the age when young people can leave education, Nottingham is trialling a number of projects.

Nottingham’s Economic Growth Plan, supported by our new City Deal, has committed to create one team to analyse our local labour market, advertise services to local employers and develop coherent support focusing on employers’ recruitment needs. We will achieve this by combining services with those of Job Centre Plus. An account management service will offer a single point of contact.

We will encourage and support employers, particularly SMEs, to take on apprentices and offer ongoing support to employers for three months to ensure that apprentices stay in post.

Helping individuals to end their NEET status can and should form a central plank of the austerity-state’s ambitions to improve life in the UK. Individuals, society and our collective bottom line will all benefit from smart, targeted interventions that support our young people when they need that support most.

Nick McDonald is Executive Member for Jobs, Skills and Business Executive & Majority Support/Partnerships Team, Nottingham City Council

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