More young people than ever struggling to move from education into work

New study finds that nearly half of NEETs in England now have no experience of sustained paid employ

New Statesman
Lack of skills required for first jobs have made it harder for many young people to get a foothold in the jobs market. Photograph: Getty Images.

The past decade has seen a major rise in young people aged 16 - 24 who are either unable, or taking longer, to make the first move from education into work due to shortage of required skills, according to a new report from The Work Foundation and Private Equity Foundation.

The report, titled Lost in Transition? The changing labour market and young people not in employment, education or training, found that the proportion of NEETs (not in education, employment or training) aged 16-24 without paid work experience has risen from 41 per cent in 2001 to 48 per cent in 2007 and 2011.

Report author Paul Sissons said:

The labour market has changed considerably over the past few decades. First jobs are now less likely to be in manufacturing and more likely to be in the service sector where skills such as communication, team working and customer service are important. For young people without the soft skills needed to access work in these growing sectors, finding employment has become increasingly difficult.

Shaks Ghosh, chief executive of Private Equity Foundation, said:

We know that if young people haven’t got on to the first rung of the job ladder by 24, they will suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives. Some will never work. That’s why this research is so shocking. Many NEET young people face a Catch-22: they don’t have the so-called ‘soft skills’ employers are looking for, but often the only opportunity to learn those skills is on the job.

We need to ensure all our young people, irrespective of background, are connected to and prepared for today’s world of work before they leave school. They need personalised guidance, workplace mentors and introductions to business networks, as well as work experience which leads to paid employment.

The research finds that in England, nearly half of NEETs now have no experience of sustained paid employment beyond casual and holiday work. This represents over 450,000 young people who so far have been unable to make the transition from learning into employment.