celebrating students

More than just grades

By Dawn Plimmer 15 August 2013

It’s A level results day. And as anxious students are told ‘not to panic’, figures released yesterday reveal that unemployment among 16-24 year olds increased by 15,000 to 973,000 in the three months to June. Young people face big challenges as the job market becomes increasingly tough to break into—but  it’s not just educational attainment that’s important.

The Journey to Employment (JET) report, published earlier this year, outlines the main groups of factors that contribute to successful job outcomes for young people. Qualifications, education and training make up some of these areas, but we also identified a further six groups: personal circumstances; emotional capabilities; attitudes to work; employability skills; experience and involvement; and career management skills.

Charities play a vital role in helping young people—especially those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds—develop the attitudes, capabilities and experiences to support employability by increasing motivation, building confidence, raising aspirations, and providing access to work experience.

But despite such valuable work, and no matter how hard young people study, there are wider structural issues that need to be addressed. Having the right attitudes and capabilities is all well and good, but young people are in desperate need of opportunities too. Work experience gives young people an important understanding of the workplace, helps them to make career choices, set realistic aspirations, and develop networks and employability skills. And paid work experience reduces the time young people spend NEET once they leave school. However, recent research by IPPR shows that since 1998 the number of 16 to 24-year-olds who have never had a job has almost doubled to 640,000.

To give young people the necessary opportunities, a more joined-up approach is needed. Government and schools play a key role, but so do employers. At the moment, lots of corporates are investing heavily in youth employment via charities, which is great to see. But to make a real impact they need to do what they arguably do best and actually offer young people that all-important work experience.

The journey to employment is complex and different players have different roles to play in supporting young people along the way. At NPC we’re trying to support a joined-up approach by using the JET framework to bring together these players to think through how their work impacts on youth employability at various stages. We’re talking to national charities, local youth work organisations, local government, grant-makers and corporate funders about piloting the framework. By working together and measuring and sharing results, we hope more young people get the grades—and the job—that they want.

  • We’re in the process of piloting the framework with charities and funders, so please get in touch if you’re interested in getting involved.
  • In July, we hosted an event at the Guardian, Can we prevent a “lost generation”?, to explore the role of the charity sector in improving the lives of the UK’s youth.