When it comes to tackling youth unemployment, high-quality work placements are the right thing to do for young people, the economy and society as a whole, says David Pincott.
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Movement to Work (MtW) is a charity coalition of the UK’s leading employers, civil society and government. It gives young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) a helping hand towards full-time work by providing work placements that teach employability skills and offer on-the-job experience.
MtW has delivered 80,000 work placements over the last five years and says that gaining meaningful work is a major factor in helping to steer young people away from criminal activity.
More than 50% of young people from the most challenging backgrounds who have completed a MtW placement have gone on to employment or back into education. They create huge value for their employers and add value back into society through paying tax and spending their wages.
Yet when they are not able to find work, and because of the actions of a few, it is often the case that all of them take the blame for so many of society’s ills.
Give youth a chance
Thankfully, not everyone subscribes to that point of view, and numerous employers with a social conscience are giving young people a chance; investing their own money in work placements and other opportunities to support young people from all walks of life into meaningful careers.
With limited opportunities, it’s easy to see why some young people become marginalised, disconnected from the statutory support available and hidden from the statistics.
And it’s not just about having a social conscience. These employers have gained loyal young people, whom existing staff enjoy mentoring and to whom they can pass on skills that are desperately needed by the UK economy.
But there aren’t enough employers like this. MtW has joined forces with London Youth, which represents over 480 youth organisations in London, to call on more to provide work opportunities for young people who could otherwise turn to crime, and for funding to be restored for youth outreach and facilities.
The youth unemployment rate was 11.8% in February 2019, and far higher in areas of deprivation, compared to an unemployment rate of 4% for the whole population. With limited opportunities, it’s easy to see why some young people become marginalised, disconnected from the statutory support available and hidden from the statistics.
Rosemary Watt-Wyness, CEO of London Youth, says: “Rising youth violence coincides with sustained cuts to youth services and fewer opportunities available to young people. London’s Lost Youth Services report identified over £145m lost from youth services across London since 2011, with 81 youth clubs closing and 800 youth service roles being lost in this period. Youth clubs help build confidence and life skills.
“The £100m promised in the government’s spring statement is primarily aimed at policing. However, enforcement is not the single solution. The Youth Violence Commission has shown the roots of violence are deep and that there are no quick solutions.
“To end violence, we must address poverty, reducing the disparities experienced by people from many backgrounds, and provide more positive and meaningful opportunities for all young people.”
Pathway to jobs
Many job opportunities are there, with thousands of vacancies and employers investing to support young people into employment through apprenticeships and work placements. However, this can only make a difference if young people believe they can access these opportunities, as well as relevant mentoring and role models to show them the pathway to jobs.
This national challenge needs a joined-up response, and more funding is needed for youth outreach organisations and mentors to support young people towards these opportunities.
James Ashall, CEO at MtW, says: “As a coalition of employers we can support people into employment once they are known to us, but it’s organisations like London Youth who are part of local communities that can support young people to find their way to MtW and employers.
“Employers now working with MtW have found that these young people are loyal and develop useful skills, and that current workforces enjoy mentoring them. Meaningful employment is key to positive ambition. If young people see a bright future and potential careers with positive guidance, we will all benefit. And, looking at things starkly, fewer lives will be lost.”
There are many young people who are great examples of this, including Irfan Ayub from London, who says: “I was involved in a lot of bad stuff. Even when I got a placement, I missed out on some days. But I asked if I could redo them and that was a major turning point for me and my employer, who saw something spark in me.
“I’m now in a job where my colleagues need degrees to get in. I’ve got no qualifications on paper but being seen doing good things in the workplace meant I didn’t need them. More employers must recruit this way.”
About the author
David Pincott is head of PR and government relations at Movement to Work and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org