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Pearson - AELP research identifies barriers to young people working or training

A lack of awareness about vocational learning routes into work may be holding back many young people from finding sustainable employment, according to a new report published by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) and Pearson, the world’s largest learning company.


Analysis in the report ‘Routes into Work – it’s alright for some’ looks at why too many young people drift as so-called NEETs (Not in Education Employment or Training) unless they are able to reach a turning point in the form of starting an Apprenticeship or a Traineeship. 


Latest quarterly figures for Apprenticeships for 16 to 24 year olds show only a 4,000 increase in starts on the corresponding number a year ago and providers say that this number could be much larger if the current funding system was simplified and made more responsive to demand.


The report also finds that the Traineeships programme is starting to play an important role in engaging young people but awareness about the programme is low.  It therefore calls for better promotion of Traineeships as a pathway to employment and further training to young people, employers and key influencers.


Slow fall in the number of young people who are NEET

From October to December 2015, there were 853,000 young people aged from 16 to 24 in the UK who were not in education, employment or training (NEET), an increase of 5,000 from July to September 2015 and down 110,000 (-1.4%) from a year earlier.  According to the ONS, 42% of all young people in the UK who were NEET were looking for work and available for work.  Our report observes that the fall in the number of NEET young people has been frustratingly slow and sets out reasons why this has been the case when overall job vacancy levels are high.


The report’s authors believe that faultlines between different government departments and agencies do not serve disengaged young people well.  It is recommended  that the government forms a cross departmental steering group, involving all key stakeholders, which scrutinises all new policy proposals affecting education and training for 16-24 year olds in order to maximise synergies and reduce overlap.


Other key recommendations include:


  • ensure that the design of the provision which replaces the Work Programme provides high levels of flexibility so that providers can create bespoke programmes that can accommodate young people with multiple barriers to work – particularly those who are economically inactive.


  • prioritise funding for adult skills training, including English and mathematics, for the young unemployed and deploy ESF funding effectively to support young peoples’ transitions to training and work.


The report identifies the need for new research on a number of topics, including:


  • a better understanding of young people’s labour market knowledge about the sector they are planning to enter.  The focus should be on sectors where there is an apparent oversupply of young people training compared to the jobs available. 


  • whether the current structure and patterns of vocational training are fit for purpose in the context of the emerging hour-glass pattern of the labour market.  The report warns that a progression bottleneck at around level 3, the gateway to any form of higher learning, appears to be developing, restricting progression routes for young people in particular.


Commenting on the report’s findings, AELP policy director Paul Warner said:


“The report highlights that 88% of apprenticeship completers remain in their jobs and that early results from the Traineeship programme show very promising signs of progression for the young people on them.  Yet starts in apprenticeships for 19 to 24 year olds fell by 3% in the first quarter of 2015-16 compared with the same period in the year before.  Government delays in responding to training providers’ growth funding requests at the end of last year and more recently in respect of 16-18 apprenticeships are bound to be a factor in limiting any acceleration in growth, so evidenced new demand from employers and young people needs to be funded if we are to get the NEET figures down faster.”


Lesley Davies, Senior Vice President at Pearson, said:


“This report contains very valuable analysis on some of the challenges facing young people as they look for work or education. We need to explore further why the hour-glass pattern for skills is emerging with not enough progression to level 3 and above and there needs to be a concerted effort by government, employers, providers and others to raise awareness among young people about the high quality vocational learning routes that are available to them.” 


The AELP / Pearson report ‘Routes into Work – it’s alright for some’ is available for download at:


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