Give young people not in full-time education a fair chance of a job

by Stewart Segal, Chair, Youth Employment UK

As the government prepares to announce new back to work measures, Stewart Segal, Chair, Youth Employment UK makes the case for extending current job schemes to assist young people not in full time education to secure a job. 

The pandemic over the last two years has had a major impact on the employment prospects of young people.

Many have had to cope with the huge disruption in the job market, especially those entering the market for the first time.

The pandemic affected the working life of everyone, but most people accept that it is the youngest and those who need most support who have suffered the most.

As the job market has recovered, it is true that 16-24 year olds have gained jobs. But what is striking is that the jobs recovery for young people has been concentrated on those in full-time education rather than those who are not.

It is young people who are not in full-time education who will need continued support through Kickstart, Apprenticeship subsidies and traineeships to find a job throughout 2022 at the very least.

In the twelve months to September-November 2021, over 106,000 full-time students aged 16-17 found jobs and 48,000 full-time students aged 18-24 did the same.

By comparison, there were 10,000 fewer 16-17 year-olds in jobs outside of full-time education, whilst the number of 18-24 year-olds in jobs but not in full-time education increased by no more than 3,000 (and this rise includes those already on the Kickstart scheme).

Pulling the plug too soon 

The Government’s response to the pandemic through the Plan for Jobs is providing some impetus to respond to the challenge but there are many signs from government that, for young people in particular, that support may well be removed too soon.

The basis of the argument presented by the Chancellor is that there are over 1 million vacancies in the labour market and young people are getting jobs. Therefore, programmes such as Kickstart, Traineeship and Apprenticeship incentives will be removed.

This would be a big mistake. So far, young people getting jobs are those in full-time education. In addition, when sectors experience skills shortages they often try and recruit experienced people.

Kickstart, Traineeships and Apprenticeship incentives are targeted on those who are not in full-time education and it is this group of young people who still need help.

It takes a long time for the job infrastructure to create entry routes for young people.  The focus at the moment for many employers is to go for experience so people hit the ground running.  The census at Youth Employment UK showed that young people are still finding it difficult to find suitable vacancies in their area.

Extending support 

The best option for any young person entering or progressing in the workplace is a job with full training support.

We have to extend the incentives for employers and providers to create the opportunities for young people and make the transition from Traineeships and Kickstart much more flexible to use the incentives for the benefit of young people.

Too often new programmes such as Kickstart are not integrated with the existing programmes such as Traineeships and Apprenticeships, especially when these programmes are run by different departments such as the DfE and DWP.

We need to look at clear career paths from school, where we are going to see a lot more of T Levels, and the different support programmes.  We need to facilitate these career paths using the expertise in employers and training providers to manage that process.

We have to put even more emphasis on providing support for those that have a learning need.

The pandemic has created new ways of working which often create additional stress and strain.  Working from home when you don’t have much experience of work is not easy.  We should be encouraging even more flexible ways of supporting everyone in the workplace, but especially young people.

Many young people, particularly in school, have missed two years of careers work and have had very little experience of the workplace.  This needs to be addressed over the next couple of years; although I have huge sympathy with schools as they try and balance the huge pressures of recovery and catch up.

And let us not forget that many young people already in the workplace have to catch up as well.  The government forget the catch up needed for these young people just because they are not at school.

If you are wondering how this extended support will be funded, then you need look no further than the underspend on apprenticeships. Government has collected a lot more Apprenticeship Levy than they have spent in the last two years.  I can’t think of a better way of spending that money on young people and the programmes that will enable them to be the apprentices of the future.

The next phase of recovery 

The next phase of recovery from the pandemic is the most important for young people.  We have to integrate the different support programmes using the organisations on the ground that are working with those young people. And we have to extend and retain the incentives to ensure that young people get a fair chance of repairing some of the damage they have experienced over the last few years.

Who knows where the government will be in a day, a week or a month’s time.  Let us hope that nothing stops the urgent need to respond to the challenge. Young people have resilience, innovation and drive but they deserve the support of the government and the rest of the sector over the next few years.

Those in government must listen to the sector and work with us. But most importantly they must listen to young people.

Stewart Segal is Chair of Youth Employment UK 

Original post published by Campaign for Learning 26 January 2022

Finding goldilocks for Kickstart

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By Chris Goulden

This morning we heard from Nick Riddle, Deputy Director of the Kickstart Programme at DWP about how they hope the programme is going to work. While they have done some amazing work to get it to where it is now, there are quite a few fundamental problems still to sort out, to say the least. I wouldn’t like to see the state of Nick’s inbox right now!

I took away half a dozen key points that were raised in discussion that need to be sorted out:

  1. A rolling FAQ on the DWP website would be really helpful. This would provide a way of feeding in, sorting out and sharing solutions to problems that are coming up.
  2. There was clearly confusion about whether you can be your own Gateway. I don’t know if this is similar to being able to scratch your own elbow with the same hand or what! At first it was a “no”, then a “maybe” and then “I’ll check”. It seems to me that you must be able to do so, if you think of how many placements a council could provide within their own services as well as being a gateway?
  3. DWP seem to be using various criteria for automatic knock-outs to reject applications within the black box of their bureaucracy but it wasn’t clear whether these are transparent to gateways or employers. This would be useful information to share more widely.
  4. DWP need to get gateway applications sorted ASAP. Employers have been the priority to get going first, which is fair enough, but this has a knock-on effect on kinds of roles that are available. If a lot of smaller employers are only going through gateways, then it’ll skew what jobs come up at what point.
  5. There is a five-way set of relationships going from DWP to jobcentres and work coaches to gateways to employers with the young person involved throughout. This is complex but if these links don’t all work then the programme as a whole is going to fail.
  6. The impact of lockdown and remote working means the local aspect of placements via a local JCP doesn’t make much sense for lots of jobs. So, how is that going to be addressed? It’s an opportunity to cast the net more widely.

Overall, though, the scale of need is large and growing. As at the end of September, there were nearly 1m 16-24 year olds on UC. A lot of the increase since May has been in those who are working; and about 1 in 3 overall are counted as being in work. About 4/5ths of the increase since May has been among those who are working. But as was pointed out – many young people are not in touch with Jobcentres at all; some are on legacy benefits and 16-17 year olds who are unemployed are by and large unable to access UC easily.

We must focus on and help first and foremost the more disadvantaged young people – but balance that with employer needs: and we need to consider disabled young people and what assistance they might need to access vacancies on a level playing field.

This means we need to find the ‘goldilocks’ zone that’s “just right” between preventing deadweight and avoiding inappropriate referrals of those who would need much more support before benefiting from a work placement.

We are not going to get that balance just right straight away. We need to give this time to bed in and get through all the opportunities that have been lined up – and vitally, get responses out to the gateways.

My big hope therefore is that the evaluation being done by DWP will have results early enough to adjust the policy and the operation of it quickly in the new year. I think Kickstart will stand or fall on how flexible it is and how it adapts to the unpredictable economic context over the next 12 months.

Chris Goulden is Director of Impact & Evidence at Youth Futures Foundation

Join the next ERSA Kickstart Forum on 10 December, 10am – 12pm, more details and how to register at

Paul Noblet, Centrepoint, blogs for ERSA about early interventions with young people

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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

Mental health: what can youth organisations offer?


Steph Taylor, Head of Talent Match London, London Youth’s multi partner strategic employability programme for young people, reflects on mental health needs of teenagers and young adults.

Earlier this week we held discussions with young people from the Talent Match London programme in order to inform our response to the Youth Select Committee consultation on mental health services. We don’t deliver mental health services at London Youth, but we do work with young people with specific diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health difficulties – both through Talent Match London, as well as through our network of member clubs – and we and the youth workers in those clubs meet many more who show early signs of having challenges they might need support with.

During the conversations I was struck by 2 things:

Firstly, young people told us they would have no idea where to go to access support for their mental health. These are young people who are already linked in to everything we provide and who through our programme have successfully moved into work or learning. Although we know of course that there are funding challenges for services, and that lots of organisations – MAC UK, Young Minds and many local groups – work hard to support young people,  it felt from our conversations that provision – or awareness of provision – is still patchy in many places. This is something we want to seek to address for the young Londoners we support – both within the Talent Match London programme, and across our wider network.

The second important thing they told us was that they’d find it hard to recognise when something they were experiencing was affecting their mental health, and that earlier education would have made a huge difference to them. This might be delivered through school or from within the youth and community settings where they meet trusted adults they respect and would feel more comfortable to explore what they see as stigmatised issues with huge potential for misunderstanding and fear.

So while it does certainly feel like there is a need for additional and more accessible services, for some young people maybe it matters as much that they are simply linked into people who do know where they can get support. People who they trust to talk to and have a strong relationship with. What I see when I look at our most integrated and successful Talent Match London delivery are predominantly interventions which improve mental health by developing young people’s confidence, resilience and networks. Young people are engaged in strong and self-directed peer mentoring and offering each other a supportive family-like environment as they progress. We might be delivering an employability programme, but as well as having found a job they want to keep, participants tell us they feel empowered, part of their communities and able to navigate their own journey through work. These outcomes are improving social and emotional capabilities and thus impacting mental health and wellbeing.

Both of these things chime very strongly with the feedback we have from youth workers in our member clubs. The other challenge they are finding is that there is a perception that criteria for young people to access specialist support from health and social care professionals seems to have become narrower as funding has been squeezed – leaving some young people at risk of not getting the help and guidance they need at the right time.

This is a challenging situation, and with pressure on funding the short term options are limited. But we know that in other parts of the country youth organisations are playing a more strategic role in the provision of mental health support for young people – in Devon, for instance, Young Devon have developed an innovative and well respected approach which is part of the local infrastructure of provision. So we’re looking to work with partner organisations and our members over the coming months to see what the best solutions are – through Talent Match London and across our network – so that we can begin to effectively meet the needs that young people are expressing. And we’ll continue to focus on working with our members and partners to deliver strong personal development outcomes for young people, so that they are supported to become more resilient and are better able to deal with some of the challenges life throws at them.