At Centrepoint we believe that supporting young people who have become homeless means not only providing a safe place to live at a time of crisis, but also ensuring they have the opportunity to learn new skills and secure sustainable employment.
However, many of the young people that Centrepoint support in our services up and down the country will struggle to access government programmes such as traineeships and apprenticeships as, having often had their secondary school education disrupted, they can lack formal qualifications. Becoming homeless could have also meant them missing out on careers advice provided through their school.
If the government are to effectively target all young people to get them into education, training and employment they must ensure that schemes are tailored to individuals, and that opportunities for work placements and employment are open to all and not curtailed by clashes with the benefits system.
This tailored support must start at a much younger age with a better resourced and more innovative careers service. Many young people cite a lack of information, advice and guidance as having hampered them. Despite the formation of the National Careers Service, the reduction in frontline careers advisers means that it is harder than ever to access support to help navigate the complex learning, training and employment routes available to young people – a situation exacerbated by homelessness.
In the same way that you don’t build a house from the roof downwards, we believe it should be the same when it comes to getting young people into work. Spending money on training programmes could be easily undermined if we don’t get the initial advice and guidance right. This may call for more financial resource, but it is also an opportunity for innovation such as the provision of transition mentors to support both young people and employers to increase the chances of vulnerable job entrants sustaining training and employment. The government could also look at introducing a focused peer information and guidance service, where once-vulnerable young people who have progressed into sustainable employment and independent living can be role models to inspire and motivate.
Having got this strong foundation in place it is then vital that schemes are accessible to those who may lack both the entry requirements and the understanding of expectations in the workplace to immediately enter employment. Whilst study programmes and traineeships already go some way to preparing young people there is insufficient flexibility for those that are furthest away from the labour market to get a taste of different vocational areas.
The government should look to open up Level 1 pathways to encourage more young people to engage in needs-appropriate work-based learning. This could include allowing young people to undertake more than one Level 1 qualification before they are expected to progress.
Even armed with both better advice, greater confidence and more skills it can still be difficult for young people who are furthest from the labour market to compete for opportunities. At Centrepoint we work with a number of companies to offer work placements, which often lead to employment. We believe that there is a clear role for government and its agencies to support the creation and extension of similar schemes. Intermediate labour market schemes could be broadened to allow young people to build their knowledge and experience of the world of work in a positive environment, developing skills alongside professionals who can offer a first-hand insight into how to build a successful career.
At the general election the Conservatives clearly won a mandate to get young people back to work. As providers of support we have a duty to guide the new government to ensure all young people can get into training and employment