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New research from Young Women’s Trust has found that many young people, especially young women, aren’t finding job centres helpful.

Just 19% of young women who visited a job centre in the last year said it helped them find a job, six in ten said the experience was humiliating and one in five said staff didn’t treat them with respect. While this lack of support was evident across the sexes, young women were less likely than young men to say Job Centre Plus kept them motivated when searching for work or helped them find work.

Our findings echo the recent House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee report, which called for greater flexibility and innovation by Job Centre Plus. The Committee also rightly expressed concern that job centre coaches are often cast into the role of policeman (although at Young Women’s Trust we would rather they had referred to police officers) rather than supporters or genuine coaches who will help people progress into work.

These issues are especially concerning given what is known about the particular employment needs of young women.

Contrary to how it is frequently portrayed, there are more young women than young men who aren’t in education, employment or training – and young women in work are more likely than young men to be on low pay or in insecure employment with few prospects.

Confidence can also be a major issue for young women. In a recent survey of 4,000 18-30 year olds we found that young women were significantly more likely than young men to report low self-confidence (54% compared with 39%) and to be worried about their abilities (53% compared with 43%). 62% of young women said they would be put off applying for a job if they did not meet all the criteria, compared to 54% of young men. Young women were also more likely to have applied for jobs and not got any feedback, with 85% reporting this.

That’s why we believe that the sort of approach that the Young Women’s Trust’s Work It Out service provides for young women is so valuable.

By providing free, flexible coaching and personalised advice and feedback on CVs and job applications for young women aged 18-30, Work It Out aims to empower women and, crucially, fit around their lives.

Coaching sessions can be arranged by phone, text, WhatsApp or whatever works best for young women, and the emphasis is on a positive, empowering approach where young women are supported to feel more positive about themselves. Crucially, young women are not penalised if they miss a session – and under no pressure to have a set number of sessions.

Advice on CVs and job applications can also be arranged in the same way, with personalised expert feedback provided by specialist HR volunteers. Feedback from young women has so far been really positive, with the majority of service users reporting increased confidence, including when applying for jobs.

We know there is a need for flexible and holistic services such as Work It Out which focus on softer skills, and considerable benefits for the people who use them.

As 24 year-old Simone, who used Work It Out has told us, “My confidence was very low when I met Young Women’s Trust. My coach made such a big difference to me – she helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was doubting myself so much. She helped me see the positive inside the negative, and it gave me the confidence to apply for a job at Asda, which I got.”

Youth employment levels have encouragingly fallen recently, and there are record levels of women in the workplace. However, there are still far too many young women who want to work but who can’t find a job – including those who don’t show up in unemployment statistics because they are unable to actively seek or imminently start work – or who are stuck in low paid, insecure work.

We’d therefore like to see greater innovation and flexibility by job centres, a renewed focus on flexible support and far more emphasis on partnership work and signposting young women to the services that are right for them. At Young Women’s Trust we’d also like to develop further referral partnerships with services who think the young women they work with could benefit from coaching and job application feedback – so please do get in touch if you would like to discuss this more.

Joe Levenson, Director of Communications and Campaigns, Young Women’s Trust
joe.levenson@youngwomenstrust.org