Even before the COVID-19 crisis, improving youth participation in education, employment and training was a key priority for councils - not only because of our statutory duties relating to young people, but for its significance to the future workforce for our economy. While youth participation in education and training rates for 16 -18-year olds have hovered around the 86.1 per cent mark the challenge for local government has remained over recent years. We continue to hold statutory duties for the engagement of young people in high quality education and training but lack the appropriate formal levers – power and resources – to undertake these responsibilities effectively. Most of the provision for young people is still nationally commissioned by Whitehall departments without conducting assessments of local need.
Then COVID-19 came along and dealt a heavy blow, disproportionately impacting young people – those in school and colleges, on apprenticeships or in sectors mostly bearing the brunt of the crisis.
The Government’s prompt action and recent announcements of Opportunity Guarantee measures, including the Kickstart Scheme are welcome and will help towards supporting young people through this difficult period. Nonetheless, these can only be successful if they are localised by building on the local intelligence and delivery models, working in partnership with employers and providers.
Councils have already shown how they can respond swiftly to local needs by forging partnerships, adapting provision and delivering advice and support to young people in need at pace.
As we look ahead towards the future, we now stand ready to play an equal part with Government to support an inclusive economic recovery – helping young people to ensure that the next generation doesn’t become a lost ‘pandemic generation’ with scars for years to come.
This is a unique opportunity to be ‘Re-thinking local’ to unlock the full potential of local and national partners across the country to support economic recovery. The Government must work with us in partnership to deliver its recovery ambitions and the forthcoming devolution agenda. Our Work Local model provides a blueprint for devolution of employment and skills.
Summary key recommendations
We recommend Government should immediately:
- Set up a Youth Employment and Skills Taskforce and appoint a Youth Minister.
- Work with councils and combined authorities to localise investment in the new active labour programmes for those out of work.
- Work in partnership with councils and combined authorities to plan, coordinate and deliver the Kickstart Scheme.
- Grant additional powers and resources to councils and combined authorities to extend the September Guarantee offer.
- Grant apprenticeship flexibilities to increase the number of young people starts and completions.
- Provide greater investment and incentives for employer to promote the take-up of T Levels.
- Establish data sharing protocols to open-up access and share Government departments’ evidence, including granular and longitudinal data.
We recommend by 2022 Government should:
- Trial at least one Work Local pathfinder in each region across England.
- Establish an integrated Youth Employment and Skills (YES) Service.
- Give councils and combined authorities the power and resources to co-design and co-commission a local career offer.
- Provide dedicated careers / transition support funding for secondary schools (and academies) to fulfil their responsibilities.
- Give councils and combined authorities’ the tools and resources to enable them to plan a coherent post-16 offer.
- Provide a multi-year flexible funding pot to give additional support to secure/ sustain employment or training.
Councils and combined authorities as democratically elected leaders of place play a key role in stimulating local economies and want to ensure that employers have a supply of skilled workforce to meet the current and future business demands in local areas. Young people’s engagement in education, employment or training (EET) as the next generation workforce is vital for local areas and the economy.
Councils have repeatedly told the Local Government Association (LGA) that the current system does not work for some people and places. This is despite successive national governments efforts to reform the employment and skills system over the last two decades. The result being that we continue to have one of the most centralised systems in the developed world that lacks coherence or a joined-up approach. So, in 2017, the LGA set out a case for the system to be reformed with our vision for Work Local a devolved and integrated employment and skills model. To build on our ambition, last year we published Work Local – Making our vision a reality which highlights our strong appetite to test Work Local through local pathfinders and a plan for achieving it.
Young people are important, they need and deserve the best start in life; helping children and young people to fulfil their potential for Bright Futures is a key ambition of all councils. However, we know that for some young people this is not happening, and that is a concern for councils from both an economic and welfare perspective.
Even prior to COVID-19 crisis, we recognised this key issue and were committed to making the system work better for young people. That’s why last year we started a piece of work to capture the views of the sector, stakeholders and young people themselves to explore how to improve youth participation in EET and to shine a spotlight on the challenges of the system, together with what reforms are needed.
While, it will be some time before official statistics start to reflect the real impact of the pandemic on the labour market and young people, we know the crisis has worsened the situation for the entire generation. Many experts, including the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) indicate that we are facing the worst jobs crisis in a generation – with young people (18–24) set to be hit particularly hard. Most young people will be disproportionately impacted - those in schools and colleges, on apprenticeships or in sectors mostly bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis. What started as a health crisis will now become equally an economic and employment crisis as well, unless bold action is taken to avert this catastrophe.
In this report we outline the challenges of the system, alongside the key recommendations for improving youth participation in EET, and our asks of Government.
Our case for change
Statutory responsibilities with lack of formal levers
Councils, alongside their role in helping economies to thrive, have several statutory duties relating to youth participation; to ensure all young people up to the age of 18 (25 for those with learning difficulties) participate in education or training, and these include:
- Raising Participation Age – encourage, enable and assist young people to develop a range of skills for adult life and reduce the likelihood of unemployment. To fulfil this duty councils are expected to provide strategic leadership in their area to ensure that there is a network of support available
- September Guarantee – secure a suitable place in education or training, including a vocational offer, for all 16 and 17-year-olds. To achieve this councils are required to work with partners (schools, colleges and providers) to ensure that relevant processes are in place, and that each has a clear understanding of its responsibilities
- Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) – establish the identities of young people failing to participate in education and training. Councils are expected to work with partners from across education, training, business and support services to develop a strategy to reduce the number of NEET young people in their area
- Risk of NEET Indicators (RONI) – identify those who are not fully engaged in school and therefore may be at risk of becoming NEET at age 16. Councils have worked with schools and partners to develop indicators that shows a young person is at risk of becoming NEET, for example, high level of absence or truancy, low levels of prior attainment; and behavioural or social difficulties
- tracking – undertake effective monitoring to fulfil these statutory duties for participation and to reduce the number of post-16 unknown destinations for young people in the area.
Despite having these wide-ranging responsibilities that demand close working with local providers, partners and employers, councils have very few formal levers over commissioning or co-ordination of provision to meet them, which has become increasingly centralised and fragmented. Our research for Work Local (2017) paints a fragmented picture of 17 funding streams managed by eight departments or agencies, spending more than £10 billion a year.
Three years on from this research not much has changed. This results in lack of join-up at a local level and a system that doesn’t work for everyone and many young people fall through the gaps. It is also an ineffective use of limited resources; if locally planned, these would have the potential to offer a greater impact and ensure that every young person has the right help, including the essential wrap-around support needed to secure and sustain training or employment.
Emerging skills challenges
Meanwhile, there are emerging skills challenges that will need to be tackled for our economies to thrive. Analysis for the LGA shows a growing skills gap. By 2030, it estimates there will be a skills gap between our future workforce and those required by employers. Across England, it predicts that by 2030 there could be a shortage of two and half million high-skilled people and a surplus of six million intermediate or low-skilled people to available jobs. This shortfall of high-skilled people could risk future economic growth and an economic output of around £120 billion.
The local variations in skills gaps across different areas are equally as striking. For example, the analysis for Essex County Council predicts a higher skills gap of 103,000. By contrast, for the combined two cities of Portsmouth and Southampton the higher skills gap is 16,000. Together they show a need for greater investment in skills and better targeting with place-based solutions; to ensure that the current and future workforce have the skills employers demand and can take-up the existing opportunities and those that lie ahead. This requires an employment and skills system that is fit for purpose – a system that serves all young people, informs them about the available options and prepares them to pursue their chosen career path, including progression in employment. It should provide a clear link between education and employment.
The impact of COVID-19 crisis on youth participation
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit our country there were many challenges for young people in relation to employment and skills and these will have been exacerbated with the current situation.
Earlier in the crisis, analysis by The Institute of Fiscal Studies show that the lockdown will hit young workers the hardest. Employees aged under 25 were about two and a half times as likely to work in a sector that is shut down as other employees. Sectors that are shut down as a result of social distancing measures employed nearly a third (30 per cent) of all employees under the age of 25. This compares to just one in eight (13 per cent of) workers aged 25 and over.
Worryingly, the Resolution Foundation estimates that the crisis could nearly double youth unemployment as a further 600,000 could find themselves unemployed this year. While the Learning and Work Institute (LWI) predicts that at least 500,000 young people (16-24 year olds) will become long term unemployed over the next eighteen months.
There is also no comfort with the latest ONS data release (August 2020), which covers the period of April to June 2020 during the COVID-19 crisis. This shows that there were 765,000 young people aged between 16 and 24, who were NEET. It is expected that these numbers will increase over the coming months, placing a further strain on councils' statutory responsibilities.
In addition, this September, 800,000 young people will have left schools, colleges and universities, hoping to join the labour market; and according to the Sutton Trust, 19 per cent of young people that were due to attend university this year are considering withdrawing due to COVID-19 crisis.
For the existing unemployed, the current situation will worsen their chances to secure a good job. It is important to ensure that this group of young people do not end up at the back of the queue for support surpassed by the influx of newly unemployed. We know from experience that short periods of unemployment can often result into a deeper issue of long-term unemployment with its scarring effect.
Regardless of the forecasts, most young people will be impacted by the COVID-19 crisis in some way, but this will vary, depending on whether they are in EET or unemployed.
Councils are concerned about the wider impact of COVID-19 and the associated lockdown measures on young people’s mental health and wellbeing, now and into the future. It presents new challenges such as the impact of prolonged absence from school, college or training and the impact of uncertainty and grief, and ensuring young people are adequately supported in their return to education or training to get on with their lives. Research by mental health charity Mind indicates that the 75 per cent of young people (aged 13-24) with existing mental health problems reported worse mental health as a result of the pandemic, raising concerns about increased need for support early to avoid issues escalating and requiring intervention from social care services. Councils are best placed to help young people with mental wellbeing as well as working with health colleagues and other partners to support those who are mentally unwell.
Work Local: LGA position
There is a solution to improving the offer for young people. The LGA previously set out in Work Local our vision for a devolved and integrated employment and skills system. The model aims to bring together careers advice and guidance, employment, skills, apprenticeships and business support for young people, adults and employers.
Specifically, for young people, it sets out LGA’s calls for the Government to:
- devolve powers and sufficient funding so councils can fulfil their statutory duties to support all young people, including those at risk of, or who are NEET, care leavers, disadvantaged groups and those with special educational needs
- enable councils and combined authorities to start planning now for a post-16 local offer so young people have a coherent picture of locally available options (A levels, T levels, apprenticeships) and that T level reforms can be a success
- co-design the development of a locally relevant careers advice offer for young people and adults and progressive devolution of The Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) and National Careers Service (NCS) funding
Lack of a coordinated national approach
Most of the provision for young people is nationally commissioned and funded. For example, in 2018/19 academic year the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) allocated a total of £8.6 billion to around 4000 institutions to enable 4.6 million students to participate in further education. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is accountable for the spending on the Jobcentre Plus Support for Schools Programme and the Youth Obligation Support Programme for all 18 to 21 year olds making a new claim to Universal Credit. The Department for Education (DfE) funds the National Careers Service and The Careers and Enterprise Company.
Also, different Whitehall departments have responsibility for different age ranges, for example:
- DfE, is responsible for those of academic age 16-18 years, young people in the first three years after compulsory school education
- DWP is accountable for those of academic age 19-24 years, who are not in education or employment.
- The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) is responsible for youth services for those aged 13-19 (or up to 25 for those with learning difficulties) and the National Citizen Service for 16-17 year olds.
The silo approach at a national level creates a complex and fragmented landscape at a local level; councils without any formal leavers can only adopt a best endeavours approach to knit together the patchwork of different initiatives and ensure that right provision is in place to meet the needs of young people and employers.
Helping NEETs, vulnerable groups and the disadvantaged
While youth unemployment prior to COVID-19 crisis, has fallen and youth participation in education and training rates for 16 -18-year olds have hovered around the 86.1 per cent mark, the number of NEET young people remained around 760,000 and slightly increasing to 765,000 on the latest count. This shows that the system is not working for all young people – too many are falling between the gaps and need better support. A new local approach is needed to tackle the complex issues and support young people to effectively transition into education or employment.
In addition, 40 per cent of care leavers aged 19 -21 are NEET, compared to 13 per cent for this age group overall. Councils as corporate parents for these young people have clear responsibilities to support them to achieve good outcomes.
The Youth Jobs Gap series measures the gap in youth employment between young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and their better-off peers, showing large differences at a local authority level. For example, Youth Jobs Gap: The Employment Gap in the West Midlands examines NEET rates, higher education, and apprenticeships across the region and highlights the issue of identifying these differences as a first step to tackling them; along with similar reports covering the North West and London, these drill down to the local authority area level. The North West report includes the combined authority areas of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region, to highlight that the differences within the regions are often greater than the differences between regions. For example, the employment gap in Wigan and Tameside is twice as high as it is in Manchester. The reports acknowledge that local and combined authorities’ areas can have a significant impact on NEET young people but lack good quality data on 18 – 24 year olds to allow them to effectively target interventions. While national data can provide some intelligence into unemployment numbers it fails to give the broader picture, including non-claimants.
Yet there is a missed opportunity. Councils are in a unique position with oversight of local EET provision to enable effective partnerships working. Equally, councils know the needs of young people in their area and are committed to delivering a joined-up approach, that works best for this group. Therefore, the LGA is calling for councils and combined authorities, with additional powers and resources, to be enabled to take a more strategic approach to coordinating and commissioning provision. This will help develop the appropriate EET offer and build the wider support to match the needs of young people, including NEETs and the disadvantaged groups. Derbyshire County Council has developed the ‘I-Step up Re-engagement Programme’ to address a gap in transition support and provide the wraparound provision for young people.
The programme was developed to address a gap in existing provision for young people transition support for those who are identified as a risk of becoming NEET and having no identified destination at end of year 11 or 13.
Analysis highlighted that there is little or no Government funding for programmes that re-engage young people in education training or employment between year 11 and the start of year 12. The I-step up programme meets the needs of young people who are in this situation, but also those who were in danger of becoming NEET at the end of year 11 or 13. More recently, young people who present themselves as NEET have had a range of multiple and complex needs with a
range of barriers, for example, physical/medical conditions, mental health problems, drug/alcohol issues.
The programme is delivered over a three to four week period, with young people being required to attend for three days each week for about five hours per day.
One of its unique features is that it is tailored to the needs of the cohort and individuals attending the course. Tutors help the participants navigate and support them to address their wider issues that are impacting on the prospect of them remaining NEET – for example, family, substance misuse, engaging in anti-social behaviour. The course develops a range of employability skills with work experience days or an employer challenge.
Since the start of the programme a total of 72 young people have taken part with 71 per cent progressing to positive destinations. To place a value on the I-Step Up programme, in terms of the social impact, the social value tool used in Derbyshire County Council’s Public Health was employed to gain an estimate of the social value. The tool estimated that the I-Step up programme so far in its lifetime has generated £523,804 of social value, with a total investment of around £117,000 and a ratio of 4.5:1 in terms of return on investment.
Councils and combined authorities have already shown how they can respond rapidly to local needs by forging partnership, adapting provision and delivering advice and support to young people in need. For example, Birmingham City Council organised virtual visits and events to support effective transitions during COVID-19 crisis.
This year Birmingham has 261 young people in year 11 with a diagnosis of autism that are known to them in mainstream schools, so supporting their transition to post-16 settings during the current situation is a challenge. The 14-19 Participation Team as part of a joint project provide support to this group, which falls into two categories, those attending college with a Service Level Agreement for paid support or NEET with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
Organising visits and events to colleges for young people with autism is vital to ensure a soft landing and a confident and successful start to their post-16 education. Home and college visits are unable to happen during the crisis; these visits are key to ensuring that young people are getting the support they need around their autism and associated difficulties, for example, high levels of anxiety can result in low or non-attendance.
For those that are already NEET and housebound they will also be missing out on support visits. Without this help there could be a detrimental impact on their mental health, causing yet another barrier to their re-engagement to society.
The 14-19 Participation Team were able to work with colleges to identify different ways to help young people feel less anxious about going to college in September. Virtual tours and open days organised by the team offered an opportunity for young people to become familiar with the new environment from the safety of their own home.
Supported virtual interviews for placements and internships have proved a good way to include all key people and ensure that a young person’s support needs are discussed fully. Online resources have been created to support young people, parents and professionals through post-16 transitions.
The impact of virtual interventions by the team to support young people has been positive. Young people who engaged virtually have developed in confidence and many are getting more involved with social communications forums. For example, a young person who attended a youth group every week for years and played music but did not engage with anyone apart from saying hello, has transformed since virtual meet up. He is participating with discussions and having in depth conversations with various members. This young person was also supported for an interview through a virtual meeting and has been successfully offered the job.
Need for a coherent offer of all post-16 options
The increased focus on apprenticeships and the roll-out of technical levels (T Levels) provides young people with more options for their career pathways. Having greater choice is positive, but it is vital for young people to have a coherent picture of all available pathways and how they relate to the world of work or further learning. This is especially important for disadvantaged young people, those with special educational needs and disability (SEND) or complex needs.
The Skills Commission report, England’s skills puzzle: piecing together further education, training and employment makes a number of recommendations relating
to the need for learners and employers to have a better understanding of careers pathways arising from local and national economic trends. It also recommends that the careers offer “should be coordinated and signposted at the local level, based on local skills needs analysis and developed through the local collaboration model.”
Analysis by an independent Future-Ready Skills Commission, supported by West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), show that nearly a quarter of learners entering further education at age 16 in England switch between course types, dropping back to lower-level learning, or repeating study at the same level. One of the main reasons cited for this is the confusing range of qualifications and the lack of information available to schools to confidently promote all available post-16 routes to young people.
Most young people attend a local provider for their post-16 education, while there may be more suitable options for their career path elsewhere. This is often due to a lack of information about other available options or transport issues. Therefore, it is important for young people to have clear information about all the available post-16 options, including ‘travel to learn’ opportunities.
The Youth Employment UK ‘Youth Voice Census’ which explores young people's (aged 14 -24 years old) views on a range of issues related to education, work and the areas in which they live, reveal in its 2020 annual report that traditional academic routes are more likely to be discussed with young people throughout Years 9 and 10 at school. Nearly all (93 per cent of 1,390 young people) of the respondents had GCSEs discussed while only 60 per cent had A levels discussed. Over half (57 per cent) had BTECs discussed with them but other vocational choices were only discussed with 22 per cent and T levels option explored only with 6 per cent of young people in the survey.
These issues highlight the need for an improved system of all post-16 pathways together with enhanced information for schools, and better careers advice and guidance for learners at key stages of education. This can only be achieved if councils are enabled to strategically plan the post-16 offer along with oversight of provision in their local area. Greater Manchester Combined Authority has developed a portal to support young people make the right choice for their career and access courses and opportunities.
Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has launched Greater Manchester Apprenticeships and Careers System (GMACS) portal. GMACS helps young people make informed decisions on their careers. The aim is to level the playing field for those seeking an alternative to higher education.
There is no simple system that helps young people and parents choose between an academic or technical pathway or supports young people through the process. This makes it difficult for young people to access all the potential opportunities.
GMACS provides end-to-end support from year 7 through to transition from year 11 to 12. It is designed to make it easier for 16-18-year olds to choose and apply for apprenticeships and courses offering technical qualifications. All young people can access a range of useful tools to help build their skills, search and apply for college and post-16 courses, keep informed with real-time labour market information, as well as other opportunities with the business community. For example, apprenticeships, workplace experiences or shadowing, mentoring and employer led curriculum learning.
GMACS allows young people to create online profiles to showcase their skills and experience. The system will also enable young people to develop a ‘Curriculum for Life’, a type of passport, which can be built on throughout secondary school and transferred as they progress into education or employment. The ambition is to extend the portal to over 18-year olds to support learning and in-work progression in adulthood.
The system is universal and meets the needs of all young people, including the disadvantaged. It provides good quality data to enable schools to offer more ‘tailored’ support.
GMACS will enable employers to have a better interaction with young people throughout their education rather than just provide standalone work experience opportunities. Utilising usage data and analytics will enable us to develop and tailor employer led content focused on skills gaps and labour marker drivers. Accessible case studies and innovative opportunities to work with businesses will be positive for engaging with the wider groups, for example, NEETS.
With the COVID-19 crisis, many apprentices have been adversely impacted in several ways. Employers surveyed by The Sutton Trust reported that, on average, just 40 per cent of their apprentices were continuing as normal, with the remainder of apprenticeships disrupted in some way - 36 per cent having been furloughed and 8 per cent made redundant. While most providers have responded positively and
moved the theoretical element of the training digitally where possible, 17 per cent of apprentices had their off-the-job learning suspended. In many cases practical assessments, for example, for construction being paused, that result in delays in completing the apprenticeship. Fixed-term contracts and traineeships are also likely to have ended abruptly without certainty about future employment.
Recruitment of apprentices will also be negatively impacted. Around a third of businesses that are worried about the future report that they are likely to hire fewer apprentices or none. The situation will only exacerbate as the economic picture worsens over the coming months. DfE Further Education and Skills data for the last academic year reveals 213,700 starts for under 25-year olds, representing a 25 per cent decline over a five-year period. Apprenticeship starts for young people were notably low even before the crisis and will now be worsened with the recruitment freeze. Council and combined authorities want more flexibilities with the Apprenticeship Levy to enable employers to provide greater opportunities for young people. Hampshire County Council has set up Levy Transfer Scheme to create more job and training opportunities in the area.
In April 2019, the Government introduced the facility for employers to transfer up to 25 per cent of their annual Apprenticeship Levy funds to support apprenticeships with other employers. Hampshire County Council’s apprenticeship levy is approximately £3.5 million annually. The council took the decision to allocate up to £900k from Levy funds, to be made available for transfers (subject to agreed criteria) from December 2019 to March 2021.
The aim of this was to allow the transfer of uncommitted Levy funds to support the expansion of apprenticeship recruitment in Hampshire, with the potential to impact the local economy and community significantly and positively.
As a large public sector employer, Hampshire County Council needed a scheme that was fair, open, and transparent, easily accessed by employers and providers alike and that would support Hampshire residents and businesses by creating new job and training opportunities.
In December 2019 Hampshire County Council launched their Levy transfer scheme. To raise awareness and make the scheme more accessible, it has been promoted via the council‘s own website, a media release, social media, local provision and the Solent Apprenticeship Hub.
Since January 2020, Hampshire County Council has approved 150 Levy transfers worth a total of £648,500. The care sector has accounted for 112 of these, with
transfers totalling £429,500. All applications have been actioned within seven days of receipt.
An additional £1.1 million has now been committed from the council’s Levy funds, extending the transfer scheme to support the local COVID-19 employment and skills recovery plan.
Feedback from both providers and employers has been extremely positive. Theresa Maple, Director of Operations at Fareport Training, said: “Having access to the Hampshire Levy Transfer fund has created a tremendous opportunity for us to support apprentices in Hampshire. Since the introduction of employer contributions, we had an immediate drop in the number of starts, which in turn reduced opportunities to develop skills via the apprenticeship. The Transfer Scheme is a fantastic opportunity for employers and apprentices to benefit from the programme.”
The roll-out of T Levels is planned to start this September but with many young people not attending school and college last term there is a risk that students will have missed out on the valuable advice and guidance to select the appropriate vocational route. The Industry Placement element of training was a challenge prior to the crisis, with concerns about supervisory and other costs. This is likely to have worsened as employers coming out of the crisis will not have the capacity nor the resources to commit to additional responsibility or costs. These two factors will restrict the number of young people starting and advancing on the T Level programme.
An integrated offer/ placed-based approach
Every young person is unique with different needs and circumstances, so a standard approach to education and employment support is not appropriate for everyone, particularly those with complex needs. A tailored offer is needed that meets both the core and wider support needs of individuals, which often can only be delivered through a partnership approach. The current system is fragmented and fails to meet the wider support needs of young people. Durham County Council has developed a partnership approach to tackling this challenge. DurhamWorks Programme provides integrated employability and wider support for young people to secure and sustain employment.
DurhamWorks programme provides support for 16-24 year olds that are unemployed. It is funded through Youth Employment Initiative, European Social Fund (ESF) and match funding. It is an inclusive programme working with a diverse range of young people across County Durham to remove any barriers preventing them from progressing into training or employment.
Young people, particularly those who are vulnerable, often require a range of tailored interventions over a sustained period. Therefore, mentoring and personal support from specialist staff is key to supporting young people to progress into
training or employment. This requires a partnership approach to delivery and an individualised programme based around interventions to help them overcome the barriers they have to progression.
Through DurhamWorks, young people have access to a broad range of innovative and flexible activities to meet their specific needs. These range from ‘hook-type’ provision to engage individuals, activities to develop emotional resilience, through to employability skills programmes. The support is offered by specialist learning providers, who have experience of delivering provision that is specifically tailored to help young people who have multiple barriers to their progression. The specialist providers work in partnership and include: Citizens Advice County Durham, Cornforth Partnership, Delta North Consett, Foundation of Light, Groundwork, Springboard, and SHAID.
DurhamWorks has a specific focus on engaging with employers to develop a range of opportunities for young people, from work experience placements through to paid employment. A grant is available to small and medium sized enterprises to enable them to employ DurhamWorks participants.
The total value of the programme is £29,040,000 and it aims to support 9,930 young people from 2016-2021. It is unique from other initiatives because the support lasts as long as the young person requires it. Coaching and mentoring support is provided for all participants. Employment is the main pathway with 70 per cent of young people completing the programme having found work.
The interim evaluation report at the end of phase one of DurhamWorks (July 2018) showed a total investment of £12,299,041 and a social return on investment (SROI) ratio of 1:2.69. Every £1.00 of investment, generated £2.69 of social and economic value.
"It is a unique model - payment is made to Delivery Partners on time invested in supporting an individual rather than on results." - Linda Bailey, Durham County Council
According to the ‘Youth Voice Census’ young people when asked about the largest barriers to accessing employment, the most common answers were mental health, location, lack of jobs, disability, lack of work experience, social status, and discrimination. For those that are NEET the main barriers were as follows: lack of work experience (45 per cent), anxiety (35 per cent), no available jobs locally (31 per cent), lack of appropriate skills (25 per cent), travel /location (21 per cent) and mental health (17 per cent). This reveals that every young person’s circumstances and associated barriers are different, that a ‘one size fits all’ approach cannot and does not address the problem; therefore, a different approach is needed for different young people. Councils have shown they are best placed to deliver an integrated place-based approach. For example, the devolved Youth Contract to Leeds City Council, Wakefield and Bradford Council outperformed the national programme.
The Youth Contract was a national programme that provided support to 16-17 year olds who were NEET or at risk of long-term disengagement to move them into EET.
In 2012 there were large national underspends of Youth Contract programme.
The Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA), holding the funds at the time wanted to NEETs and those at risk of becoming NEET into employment or training.
In addition, YPLA wanted to increase these young people’s experience and qualifications so that they could have the opportunity to continue in education and successfully find work, reducing the proportion that become unemployed in adult life. It also wanted to test methods of local delivery and payment by result to increase the effectiveness of these models and to develop best practice.
This led to the Youth Contract being devolved to some places including Leeds City Council, Wakefield and Bradford Council.
The devolved contract awarded areas were given as much freedom as possible to deliver in the most innovative and effective way possible to achieve the desired outcomes. The content of the programme was left to delivery organisations to design and implement. The aim of the programme was not to replace or substitute existing provision but to supplement it. The devolved funding was used to bridge services and providers together, based on existing provision that was already in place. The additional help from experienced organisations supported young people to navigate what was on offer and make a sustainable transition into EET.
The programme succeeded in supporting three in five young people (57 per cent) into EE, whereas nationally contracted provision supported just 27 per cent.
Building on lessons from the devolved Youth Contract, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority launched in March 2019 a £9 million Employment Hub programme, part funded by European Social Fund (ESF), which will support over 6,000 young people to access employment and apprenticeships. The primary route to individuals accessing support is locally delivered, branded, and fully integrated with the range of offers available to individuals in each council area, in recognition that needs and solutions in each area are different.
Councils have proven themselves to be strong in linking skills, education, employment etc, whilst national systems create a fragmented approach and local officers often attempt to glue this back together to provide the appropriate support for individuals. This is neither an effective nor a sustainable way forward. Peter O’Brien, London Councils.
Having an effective careers advice and guidance system is vital to help young people navigate the world of learning and work. Yet the careers system in England is complicated and fragmented with a range of initiatives and providers delivering provision in any one area: schools, colleges, councils, careers professionals, and national agencies including National Careers Service, Careers and Enterprise Company, and Jobcentre Plus. It is a confusing landscape.
Current evidence, based on self-assessment, in the State of the Nation 2019 report suggests the quantity and quality of careers provision available to young people in England is improving but there is still a lack of resources to deliver high quality provision resulting in a failure to target those most in need of support.
A recent survey by housebuilder Redrow found only one in five young people are getting high-quality careers advice at school. Half of 16 to 21 year-olds have never thought about a career in construction despite there being a ‘critical skills deficit’ in the sector.
Partner organisations, such as schools and colleges, need to be able to work closely with organisations that are accountable locally and that can develop skills policy for the regions alongside the partners that have the resources to deliver local skills needs. Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).
The findings of Youth Voice Census show the offer of careers support and the level of information received can be skewed by your age, gender, eligibility for free school meals or additional needs. The pathways and opportunities discussed differ for young people in school, college and sixth forms. For example, young men are more likely to be informed about a vocational pathway while young women are encouraged towards the academic route. Those with additional needs are less likely to be informed about all the available options. Just over half (52 per cent) of those with additional needs had the option of going to university discussed with them, compared to 59 per cent of those without additional needs.
Councils are continuously working with schools and business to improve the offer. For example, Hampshire County Council has been instrumental in establishing a careers partnership with all 30 providers in the area. The Partnership has pooled together funds to set up a digital portal of resource that includes labour market information (LMI) and is available to all providers. Somerset County Council has developed a series of ‘Talent Academy’ programmes, to support schools to engage with local employers and provide young people with opportunities to learn about specific industry sectors.
This initiative was developed to showcase the wide range of employers, businesses and employment opportunities for young people across Somerset. The aim was to challenge the misconception that ‘there are no jobs in a rural county like Somerset’ and that amazing opportunities to have fulfilling employment exist on the doorsteps of all our young people.
To ensure that young people across Somerset understand the key industries in the area; the range of businesses large and small; the job opportunities at all levels to start and progress within these businesses; and the career options for further progression.
As Somerset does not have its own university many of its brightest young people leave the area to pursue Higher Education and many do not return, resulting in recruitment issues for many of its companies, especially in the higher-level positions. Somerset also faces challenges of getting school teaching staff out to visit local employers and understand what local businesses do and how they can potentially help support curriculum learning.
To address the challenge Somerset County Council created the TalentEd Talent Academy programme. It is designed to inspire and encourage aspirations as well as support young people to gain a better understanding of future careers and jobs. Each Academy is focused around a key employment sector – such as manufacturing, aerospace, nursing and health. Employers are engaged to deliver on site workshops and mentors help students build and develop their ‘soft’ employability skills. Teachers also accompany students to increase their knowledge and develop local employer links. Talent Academies are a collaboration between young people, schools, FE Colleges, employers and the Somerset Education Business Partnership.
To date over 500 young people have taken part in TalentEd Talent Academy programmes with EDF (Hinkley Point C), Rolls Royce, Mulberry, Leonardo, Numatic, Yeo Valley, Styles Ice Cream, among the national and local employers involved.
The feedback is positive from all those involved – students, staff, parents and employers and have led to greater education / employer interactions.
During the COVID-19 crisis many young people will have found their studies at school or college paused or partially continued digitally. This means that many will not have had their access to face-to-face careers advice and guidance support to make an effective post-16 transition to the next stage. In addition, these leavers will have also be missed out on the personal development curriculum, including employer interaction, work experience, which is fundamental to choosing an appropriate career path. So, currently it is vital to have online provision. West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s FutureGoals initiative with its online learning resources to support career goals has proved useful to many young people during the crisis.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) in collaboration with Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Burberry have launched FutureGoals Spotlight, a new series of at-home teaching resources to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 crisis.
At the start of the crisis it was identified that more support was needed to help the region’s young people learn from home and continue to develop employability skills and careers knowledge while schools and colleges remained closed.
The challenge was to adapt the ‘Creative Industries Toolkit’. This is a five-year investment project with the aim to make a positive impact on 300,000 young people. The toolkit introduces students to creative job opportunities and makes the connection between careers and the curriculum.
FutureGoals Spotlight is designed to help young people learn how Maths, English and Science skills can be used to pursue careers in the creative sector.
The teaching resources were originally developed as a classroom activity. To help teachers to continue to deliver this work during lockdown, a solution that could be delivered at home was needed. To do this, the team responded by adapting the existing resources and developing a new set of resources, called FutureGoals Remote, that students could complete remotely.
To date the FutureGoals wider campaign has reached one million people.
The Spotlight resources were launched during National Careers Week (2-6 March 2020) and have had a significant impact, reaching 4,000 educators nationally.
The project has raised the profile of the creative industry amongst the target audience and the partnership between the LEP and Burberry locally.
Spotlight resources and information on the FutureGoals website have attracted over 1,600 visits and the resources have been downloaded over 500 times since
late February. There has been a significant uplift in sign-ups since lockdown demonstrating the demand for engaging online learning tools at a time of national crisis.
Year 9 students from Ossett Academy said:
“I really enjoyed the mapping activity and being challenged in the budgeting task.”
“I now know that there are many jobs in the creative sector and how Maths, English and Science skills are all needed.”
The current system is geared towards serving those who want or request help and often fails those who need the most support or have been left behind by the system. These young people require a more tailored approach to engagement, careers advice and guidance and support. The Greater London Authority, with London Councils, has used European Social Fund (ESF) to create Careers Clusters and wrap-around support, which we cannot afford to lose after the programme ends. Peter O’Brien, London Council.
The fragmentation, duplication and failure of the careers system to target those most in need prompts the call for change to enable local areas to co-design the relevant local offer that meets local needs. This will remove the cluttered offer and bring coherence in the local careers offer.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, our youth participation work with the sector, stakeholders and intelligence gathered about young people’s views in this space indicated a fundamental need to reform the current employment and skills system. This was so that it could be more effective in supporting young people into EET. The unexpected crisis has only exacerbated a bad situation into a dire one that calls on immediate Government action to tackle the disproportionate effect of the crisis on young people. Some of these will demand a swift response with quick measures while others, for example, more structural reforms, a medium-term response. But it is clear there is no time to waste as young people are central (as the future workforce) to the economic recovery of areas. Consequently, we need an offer that backs economic recovery, employers and young people’s needs.
The key recommendations draw on our work with the sector, stakeholders and incorporate the views of young people. Many of these were developed before the COVID-19 crisis but hold even more relevance today. We have set out our asks together with our offer to the Government for reform. In addition, we have, where possible, integrated the Governments recent announcements (July 2020) on the Opportunity Guarantee measures, including the Expanded Youth Offer and Kickstart Scheme (September 2020).
We recommend this is needed immediately:
Central government: Lead ministers from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Department for Education (DfE), Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) commit to meet with the LGA and local leaders to discuss how we can collectively work towards our Work Local ambitions, including to improve youth participation now and set a timetable for future reforms, as part of the Spending Review in the Autumn.
There is a need for a Minister with overall responsibility for youth participation to develop a strategy and action plan in collaboration with local areas and partners.
Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Edge Foundation, National Youth Agency (NYA), Youth Employment UK (YEUK)
1. Youth Employment and Skills Taskforce
The youth employment and skills participation policy span across several Whitehall departments, with DfE and DWP sharing the main responsibility. The absence of a youth participation strategy and action plan to bring together the work of different Whitehall departments or a Minister with overall responsibility demonstrates an ineffective use of limited resources. The DWP expanded Youth Offer and the roll-out of Youth Hubs is timely; however, there is a need for a more localised integrated approach that includes: greater scope and coverage (all young people, geography, employers and support services) to be effective and have a measured impact on young peoples’ training and employment outcomes.
To provide a more co-ordinated and cross-departmental approach, the Government must:
Set up a Youth Employment and Skills Taskforce.
- Appoint a Youth Minister to work across Whitehall and to have oversight of the Youth Employment and Skills (YES) Taskforce.
- The YES Taskforce to have representation from the relevant Whitehall Departments, LGA, business and other relevant organisations.
- The aim should be to provide a rapid and focussed response to prevent a lost ‘pandemic generation’.
- The LGA will work in partnership with the Government and the YES Taskforce members to share insights and support the development of interventions to ensure they land well in local areas.
- Councils and combined authorities can support the Government to deliver its Opportunity Guarantee measures at pace.
2. Investment in new active labour programmes for those out of work
Experience from previous recession shows that rapid high-quality re-employment support for the newly unemployed is critical to ensure that recently unemployed are assisted back to work as swiftly as possible. For the long-term unemployed and the disadvantaged, there should be more tailored intensive support, which includes one-to-one support, targeted work experience and pre-training, incentives for employers to provide the appropriate opportunities.
The Government has provided a rapid response with a range of measures to help the newly unemployed to speedily enter the labour market, so to prevent them from becoming long-term unemployed. These are welcome.
To ensure the success of the labour programmes, the Government must:
Work with councils and combined authorities to localise these measures so that they can respond to local labour market challenges.
- Councils and combined authorities can work with the Government to deliver labour market programmes at pace by building and scaling up interventions.
- Councils and combined authorities can build on our established local relationships with providers and Jobcentre Plus to accelerate delivery of programmes.
Councils and combined authorities can link programmes to other local services where more integrated and cross cutting support is required (health, mental health homelessness etc).
3. Transitional job creation
Looking to the future, with youth unemployment predicted to double by the end of the year, the transitional job creation schemes have the potential to provide a link between being unemployed and in work. During the last recession councils played a key role through their economic development functions and as an employer in the delivery of a similar scheme, Future Jobs Fund. Any lessons learnt from the past need to be considered to mitigate against poor design and delivery.
The recently announced Kickstart Scheme will be most effective for young people, businesses and communities if it is planned and delivered in partnership. That requires real collaboration at a local level between national government and its agencies, councils, employers and providers to ensure a local offer is well coordinated, promoted, signposted, targeted and delivered.
To ensure success of the Kickstart Scheme, the Government must:
Work in partnership with councils and combined authorities to plan, coordinate and deliver the Kickstart Scheme.
This will ensure it meets local labour market demand and secure public and private sector buy-in.
- Councils and combined authorities can work with the Government to deliver the Kickstart Scheme at pace by building on our partnerships with public and private sector employers.
- Councils and combined authorities can provide opportunities as an employer and support a green economic recovery.
- Councils and combined authorities can build on their relationships with the voluntary and community sector to deliver the Scheme and provide support services.
- Councils and combined authorities can help identify and refer young people with most to gain from the Scheme, for example, the disadvantaged (black and minority ethnic groups, care leavers, special educational needs and disabilities).
4. Extension of the September Guarantee
It is right that the Government has made an Opportunity Guarantee for young people leaving school or college this year. This should be supported with high- quality careers, advice and guidance to ensure that the right academic or vocational pathway is chosen for their career.
To ensure the extension of the September Guarantee is a success, the Government must:
Provide councils and combined authorities with additional powers and resources to determine supplementary provision to plug any identified gaps locally.
- There should be a student premium for providers to support disadvantaged students.
- A maintenance allowance for young people to study further, particularly the disadvantaged and those who are NEET or RONI.
- There should be a funding requirement for providers to agree the appropriateness of provision with councils and combined authorities.
- Councils and combined authorities can work collaboratively with all providers in the wider area to ensure a relevant offer and identify gaps.
- Councils and combined authorities can commission supplementary provision, where necessary, to meet employer skills demands and support economic recovery.
- Councils and combined authorities can provide better support for NEETs or those RONI to make an effective post-16 transition.
5. Apprenticeships flexibilities
Even before the COVID-19 crisis apprenticeships starts were low for young people and needed to be improved. The Social Mobility Commission report shows that the apprenticeship system is failing disadvantaged young people in England. The findings reveal a significant ‘disadvantaged gap’ at every stage of the training journey that indicate underperformance of the system.
To improve apprenticeships for young people and the disadvantaged in the short and medium term, the Government must:
- Pause the Levy spend funding to avoid any funds expiring during and shortly after the COVID-19 crisis period.
- Pause the switch-off of frameworks for at least six months to allow apprentices to complete their training in a timely manner.
- From council as an employer’s perspective, Levy payments should be paused for public sector bodies for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.
- Provide greater flexibility with the apprenticeship Levy. Permit employers to use the apprenticeship Levy funds to pay for the cost of supervision or backfill for apprentice supervisor role where necessary.
- With greater Levy flexibilities councils and combined authorities can enable employers to develop greater opportunities for young people.
- Councils and combined authorities can support sectors and areas of need and align investment with local industrial strategies.
- Councils and combined authorities can back the Government with an inclusive and green economic recovery.
6. Making T Levels work
As T Levels are rolled out, it is important to raise awareness of these as an alternative to academic route for employers and young people.
To raise awareness and boost the number of young people starting a T Level course, the Government must:
- Provider greater investment to promote T Levels with schools, pupils, parents and employers.
- Provide greater incentives to employers and councils as employers, to offer more Industry Placements.
- Give councils as employers, resources to manage and promote Industry Placements along with other opportunities.
- Councils and combined authorities can support the Government to increase the number of Industry Placements.
- Councils and combined authorities can back the ‘T Levels The Next Level Qualification’ campaign to make them a success.
- Councils and combined authorities can address the skills gaps and drive productivity across England.
7. Better access to data
Targeted support is more effective and can deliver value for money. Whitehall departments, for example, DfE collect a mass of information, including longitudinal (comparing students’ levels of education to their levels of employment and earnings in later life) data that can help deliver a more targeted approach.
To ensure a more targeted local approach to improving youth participation within areas and different cohort, the Government must:
Open-up access and share the Government departments’ evidence, including granular and longitudinal data.
- Councils and combined authorities can develop tailored interventions to support, track progress and measure success of programmes.
- Councils and combined authorities can provide better targeting to reduce the number of NEETs and improve participation rates.
- Councils and combined authorities can develop a ‘What Works’ resource to inform investment of future programmes.
We recommend this is needed by 2022:
8. An integrated offer / place-based approach
Local government has a key role to play in the recovery, particularly as the impact of the crisis will vary depending on location, as predicted in recent research. This requires local government to work with local partners to provide a place-based approach as an analyser - developing and maintaining granular intelligence; enabler - bringing together partnerships / providers; and agents of inclusive recovery – providing a connection between the social and economic functions.
To start the process of devolution of powers and resources to local areas, the Government must:
Agree to progress Work Local pathfinders.
- Commit to trial the Work Local – an integrated employment and skills model as set out in Work Local: Making our vision a reality.
- Trial at least one Work Local pathfinder in each region across England and including both urban and rural areas by 2022.
- The LGA will work with the Government and pathfinder areas to trial Work Local in partnership with the sector.
- Councils and combined authorities will work collaboratively to bring together local partners and national agencies and ensure there is a shared vision for the local area.
To agree with the Government Local Labour Market plans or a similar concordat with details of set outcomes and delivery plans to ensure national and local accountability.
9. Youth Employment and Skills Service
There is a need for a local integrated youth employment and skills service that includes specialist support for NEETs and the most disadvantaged, comprising of careers advice and guidance, job search skills and tailored support to secure and sustain training and employment (apprenticeships, traineeships, work experience, employability courses).
To provide a joined-up employment and skills service that meets the wider needs of young people, the Government must:
Establish an integrated Youth Employment and Skills (YES) Service to bring together youth employment, training, skills and welfare support for 16 – 24-year olds.
- Commit to testing an integrated Youth Employment and Skills (YES) Service across England, including both urban and rural areas by 2022.
- The LGA will work with the Government and local areas to pilot the new integrated Youth Employment and Skills Service model.
- The LGA will work with the Government to build on the learning from ‘MyGo’ model developed as part of the Greater Ipswich City Deal.
- Councils and combined authorities to work in partnership with local businesses, providers and Jobcentre Plus.
10. Careers, advice and guidance offer
The careers offer is improving but it is still a variable picture in terms of provision and quality.
To ensure quality and consistency in careers provision, the Government must:
Provide councils and combined authorities the power and resources to co-design and co-commission a local career offer.
- With greater powers and resources, local government can be enabled to:
- co-design and co-commission with The Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) and the National Careers Service (NCS) a more relevant careers offer
- determine and challenge local careers provision for consistency
- ensure that the careers offer meets the needs of employers and all young people
11. Careers funding for all secondary schools
Schools are required to secure independent and impartial careers guidance for their students and support them to effectively transition into post-16 EET but they are often stretched with limited resources. Dedicated funding would allow schools to fund a small team of careers and employer engagement professionals in each school, or to pool with other schools in the local area to provide a shared expert resource at a local level.
To ensure independent and impartial careers advice at school, the Government must:
Provide councils and combined authorities dedicated careers / transition support funding for secondary schools (and academies) to fulfil their responsibilities.
- Councils and combined authorities can facilitate better engagement of schools with all post-16 providers to enhance the post-16 offer.
- With dedicated funding to support careers advice offer in schools, councils can work with school to better target those at risk of becoming NEET.
12. A coherent offer of post-16 options for young people
There have been some developments in the post-16 landscape but there is still no one organisation coordinating the offer in a local area or determining how it all fits together. There is an increasingly greater choice of options for young people with
apprenticeships and rollout of T Levels. With more choice, it is important for young people to have clear information about all the available post-16 options, including ‘travel to learn’ opportunities.
To enable councils to plan a coherent post-16 offer, the Government must:
Give councils and combined authorities’ the tools and resources to enable them to develop a strategic overview of the wider area.
- Make it a requirement for all providers to work with councils and combined authorities to plan and deliver provision in any given area.
- This should be an obligation of the provider funding agreements.
- Councils and combined authorities can start to plan a coherent offer of post-16 options by working with providers in the wider area.
Councils and combined authorities can ensure that the provision offer is relevant to support young people.
For the current system to be improved, providers need to be encouraged to collaborate more. This requires additional funding and better access and common data sharing protocols. Edge Foundation.
13. A multi-year flexible funding pot
There is a need for a flexible local funding pot to respond to local challenges, scaling-up successful projects or provide wraparound support for young people to secure or sustain education, employment of training. The funding should be allocated to councils or combined authorities as a ‘single pot’ with the same criteria to spend in their respective areas; they are in the best position to have local intel on effective interventions and potential for scalability of projects.
To enable councils and combined authorities to respond to wider needs of young people to secure and sustain employment, the Government must:
Grant a flexible local funding pot to meet differing needs in each locality.
- Councils and combined authorities can deliver better outcomes for national and local programmes.
Councils and combined authorities can support the Governments Social Mobility and levelling up agenda.
With thanks to those organisations that took part in discussions, including Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), National Youth Agency (NYA), Youth Futures Foundation (YYF), Youth Employment UK (YEUK), Edge Foundation and Impetus. We are also grateful to our LGA colleagues in councils and combined authorities for taking part in discussions and for providing an insight to support the policy development.