A generation of youth employment support:What have we learnt and what comes next?

Elizabeth Taylor in 1986

Elizabeth Taylor, ERSA CEO

I am excited to be celebrating World Youth Skills Day, promoting the work of ERSA members. In 1986 (then a youth myself) I was the UK delegate at Vancouver Island’s World Conference for Youth on Employment Strategies. As an invited speaker, I talked about job opportunities and job creation for, and by, young people in the UK.

Several decades and a worldwide pandemic later, what do I see in 2021? – The same issues, with similar approaches needed, but new and evolving skills required for the future.

Going back to the 1980s, in each recession or downturn young jobseekers are usually hardest hit in the labour market. In response, the best initiatives to make a lasting change have proven to be those built around quality work experience linked to training, skills acquisition, immediate work, and opportunities to progress. We must remember that workplace experience and knowing how to work are skills that, when combined with others, achieve good work and progression.

From back in the days of the Manpower Services Commission training programmes (including the Youth Training Scheme); then New Deal’s 18-24 six-month work experience placements on the Voluntary Sector Option and Environmental Task Force; through the Future Jobs Fund and today’s Kickstart iteration; creative organisations have delivered quality work experience and added value through skills training.

Innovators in the employment support sector made good use of ESF to enhance New Deal placements – with waged options, driving lessons (and tests), key skills, and vocational qualifications. Not qualifications for the sake of them but qualifications that led to good, paid work.

Thinking ahead from 2021; what will good jobs in the future look like? Let’s listen to young people about their interests and aspirations, let’s deliver meaningful, quality and joined up employability and skills provision.

Kickstart can create jobs, when it works well it will lead to progression, meet skills gaps, and provide staff for the jobs of tomorrow. We can go further and make sure Kickstart delivers for the young people that need the career start most, and we can use our knowledge of local labour market skills gaps.

And we can do more. There is still time to create more Kickstart opportunities and to prioritise job creation in sectors that build community wealth, de-carbonise the economy, promote environmental recovery, contribute to our longer-term health, housing, care, cultural and creative needs. Innovative partnerships should be encouraged to help facilitate and lead in a community or sector building on work experience and skills delivery.

“We must remember that workplace experience and knowing how to work are skills that, when combined with others, achieve good work and progression.”

“Let’s listen to young people about their interests and aspirations, let’s deliver meaningful, quality and joined up employability and skills provision.”

Using travel vouchers for job placements

Arriva logo.jpg

Employers, training providers, local authorities and similar organisations run programmes and support people in relation to travel. Handling large amounts of cash to reimburse for travel can be timely and takes a large amount of resource.

Arriva have developed a range of travel vouchers which are simple and easy to administer. Businesses can hold these in stock and simply pass to the users of Arriva services. The vouchers are simply exchanged on the bus for a relevant ticket. Businesses can obtain discounts on these tickets when bought in bulk.

Arriva have developed a range of partnerships through this offer, including DWP offices.

Heather Jones, Provision Manager for DWP, has worked with Arriva for a number of years on this solution and says, “The Arriva travel vouchers have helped a number of our clients throughout the years attend interviews, work experience and take their first steps into work. They are crucial for our front facing staff to utilise as a resource. Not only that, the process is easy and cuts down massive amounts of administration time involved in dealing with cash handling.”

Further information kindly shared by Arriva can be found in a shared resources fil here (dropbox)


Next generation of drivers challenging stereotypes in the haulage industry


Two women tanker drivers are bucking the trend in a male-dominated industry, achieving distinctions in their Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) Driver apprenticeship with water supply, treatment and waste disposal company Severn Trent. 

Molly Fox and Catherine Bradley joined Severn Trent’s first LGV tanker driver apprenticeship scheme last year and, despite the logistical challenges and public health restrictions put in place to manage the Covid-19 lockdown, both have passed their practical Category C driving tests while gaining valuable on-the-job experience. 


Women make up just two per cent of all large goods vehicle drivers in the UK, and Severn Trent has been quick to recognise that the female workforce is a massively untapped resource.  

With an ageing workforce and significant driver shortages, drawing from the widest possible pool of talent will be crucial for the logistics industry as it seeks to recover from the pandemic and prepare for the conclusion of EU trade talks at the end of the transition period. 

Nikki Bardsley, Director of Apprenticeship Operations at skills specialist Seetec Outsource, which delivered the programme, believes businesses should consider the clear benefits of recruiting more learners onto a driver apprenticeship.  

She said: “Certainty at the end of the EU transition period and the ongoing impact of COVID-19 are at the forefront of the UK logistics sector’s mind. There is concern that the acute shortage of qualified drivers in the sector could be further compounded by the evolving external landscape.  

“Businesses can develop talent through the Level 2 LGV driver apprenticeship standard, which can be funded by accessing the apprenticeship levy or Government co-investment. 

“Molly and Catherine are important trailblazers who will inspire other women to follow in their footsteps.” 

With unemployment reaching its largest level of annual increase since the 2009 financial crisis, and young people disproportionately affected, the LGV driver apprenticeships can offer a new career opportunity. 

Catherine Bradley had held a variety of different roles in healthcare and hospitality before switching to a driving career. She wasn’t concerned about gender stereotypes, but the cost of funding the Category C licence herself had proved to be a barrier.  

The apprenticeship at Severn Trent combined licence acquisition training with the chance to gain on-the-job experience. Catherine said: “I’ve had the opportunity to fast-track my career and having gone straight into tanker driving – which requires even more knowledge and awareness than general haulage – I’m more confident than ever that I can take on any driving challenge that comes my way in the future. 

“The team at Severn Trent have been so supportive and will be funding training for me to gain my Cat C+E licence so I can tow heavier trailers and drive articulated vehicles for the company.” 

Simon Fairhurst, Interworks Tanker Fleet Manager for Staffordshire, Shropshire and Mid Wales, said: “Catherine has quickly learned the ropes and become a skilled tanker driver as well as a valuable member of the team.  

“The apprenticeship is a great way to bring new talent into the business and is open to anyone with a passion for driving, regardless of age or gender. The combination of on- and off-the-job training means apprentices are soon able to start working independently, so it doesn’t take long to see the impact of the programme on business operations.” 

Molly Fox was aged just 19 at the start of her training. She said: “Becoming an HGV driver was a natural career choice for me. There is always a strong sense of independence when you’re out on the open road. 

“This is a role where I can really add value. At Severn Trent, we transport tanker sludge bio product, which is a valuable resource, so I feel as though I’m playing my part in protecting the environment while helping to generate revenue for the business.” 

Molly has taken every opportunity to further her knowledge and skills. She passed her LGV theory and Category C practical test within ten months, despite having to step down from LGV training for 12 weeks during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

She used the time to successfully complete her apprenticeship assignments and e-learning modules, while providing remote team support to the company’s key workers. 

Nigel Stretton, Interworks Tanker Fleet Manager for the North, covering Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire & South Yorkshire, said: “Molly has taken every opportunity to develop professionally, build a wider knowledge base, understand all parts of the organisation and her industry.  

“She has spent time in other areas of the business such as energy and renewables, planning and scheduling, wholesale and waste water management.  

“Molly has also built an impressive network with other employees and has shown leadership by setting up an online engagement group with all 20 new apprentices at Severn Trent – including those outside the logistics department – so they could share their experiences. She is an asset to the company and has a bright future ahead of her.” 

For more information about Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) driver apprenticeship see www.seetecoutsource.co.uk/programme/large-goods-vehicle-lgv-driver/