Is a new approach to reducing youth unemployment needed?

A new report from the Local Government Association (LGA) claims that youth unemployment could be reduced by 20% in 3 years if changes are made to the way that activities to support young people are managed.

The Hidden Talents II report suggests that local approaches to reducing the number of young people who are out of work and training would yield better results than the current national schemes.

The report recommends that local authorities are made the default commissioners of all programmes to support under 24-year-olds who are not in education, employment or training. It claims that this move could save the taxpayer £1.25 billion a year and could contribute an extra £15 billion to the economy over 10 years.

This would replace the current “overly complicated” system which the report highlights includes 33 national schemes covering 13 different age groups and costing £15 billion per year.

One of the biggest criticisms that the report makes is that current initiatives aren’t addressing labour market needs and that too many young people are being trained for jobs where there isn’t a high demand for entrants. For example, the LGA research found that last year 94,000 people completed a course in hair and beauty but there were only 18,000 new jobs available in the sector. At the same time there were 275,000 jobs advertised in the construction industry but only 123,000 people were trained in the skills required.

These figures are raising questions about whether young people should be discouraged from following certain career paths where there are limited opportunities and whether advice should be biased towards careers where there are more openings.

It would be easy to say that it only makes sense to train people for roles where there are vacancies. However, there are other factors which need to be considered.

In the current economic climate, it might be difficult to tell, but industries which have limited openings currently might have potential for growth over the next ten years. By limiting young people’s options based on current vacancy availability, future demand for qualified, skilled new entrants may not be met.

There is also the ‘engagement’ argument. For young people who are not in employment, education or training, it may be easier to re-engage them in learning by offering them courses in topics which might not lead directly to a job but which bring them into a learning environment and mindset. This approach does need to balance the benefit of re-engagement with the potentially negative impact of a young person not having access to a job after completing the initial course.

The benefit of transferable skills is also a consideration. While a training or learning opportunity may not transfer to a job directly within the industry, the skills and knowledge that a young person develops are likely to benefit other sectors.

Perhaps one of the biggest issues with placing a ‘cap’ on the number of young people training in a certain field is who to encourage and who to discourage from pursuing that pathway.

Establishing which young people will succeed in a certain field and which would be better suited to a different learning and occupational route is a huge challenge.
Interest assessments like those in CASCAiD programs can help. By breaking down a career into individual work features, young people can see exactly what’s involved. This challenges perceptions and helps a young person to see how well they are suited to the career. They can also see other options which might better suit them and therefore be encouraged to explore opportunities that they hadn’t previous considered.

For more information, please click here.

To find out more about the LGA report, please click here.

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