NICEC Seminar on Youth Unemployment

Last week we (NICEC) held a very interesting seminar on youth unemployment at the University of Derby. Jo Hutchinson (iCeGS, University of Derby) kicked things off with a discussion of how the Coalition’s policy around NEETs was developing and how it might differ from Labour’s policy. Kelly Kettlewell and Eleanor Stevens (NFER) then discussed the research that they are undertaking which is examining the interventions that schools can make to prevent NEET. Finally John Goodwin and Henrietta O’Connor (CLMS, University of Leicester) provided a historic perspective by contrasting the current period of youth unemployment with the 1980s.

There were a lot of interesting points made during the seminar, but what came through most strongly to me was the need to double check your assumptions when you are looking at NEETs. John and Henrietta pointed out that much of the current media scaremongering about the “lost generation” echoes identical claims made during the 1980s. Difficult transitions do not necessarily result in the permanent loss of the individual from the labour market. Jo, presented figures that demonstrated that the recession was having a fairly minimal impact on the overall numbers of NEET young people. Finally Kelly and Eleanor argued that many young people who are NEET did not under-achieve at school and are therefore very difficult to identify before they reach the point of being NEET.

Many of the speakers also highlighted the fact that “NEETs” were not a distinct species set apart from other young people. Rather, it is important to recognise that NEET is (for most) a temporary status rather than a permanent condition. The experience of being NEET is actually typified by a high degree of churn and of moving in and out of the labour market. John and Henrietta referred to this as precariousness and to the group of people whose labour market experience is like this as the precariat. They also pointed out that this precariousness is a far more accurate picture of unemployment than much rhetoric about inter-generational and long-term unemployment (which is fairly rare).

One of the problems that struck me was that much policy is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of NEET. Some very broad truths (NEET levels are rising, poor attainment leads to NEET, NEET leads to lifetime unemployment, NEET correlates with crime and anti-social behaviour) have been transformed into absolute rules and accompanied by a media-fueled moral panic which seeks to demonise young people and locate the blame for wider social problems with them. In reality the picture relating to NEET is more complex and requires more subtle handling.
My feeling was that the approach that has been adopted to NEET for the last decade or more has been excessively focused on the idea of targeting and “finding the NEETs”. The current development of Risk of NEET Indicators (RONIs) is just a recent example of this idea that it is possible to diagnose NEETness and root it out before it takes hold. All of this targeting has the unspoken assumption that once someone drops out of the labour market or learning market they are lost for ever. I can’t help thinking that a more universal approach whereby all young people were supported to make transitions, where there was less panic about periods of churn and where there was considerably more support and opportunities for people to re-engage with the learning and labour markets once they had fallen out of the system, might just be more effective.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings. Far more considered opinions on these matters can be found in the publications written by the speakers at the event. Some good starting places for these include:

Goodwin, J. and O’Connor, H. (2007). Continuity and Change in Forty Years of School to-Work Transition. International Journal of Lifelong Education 26(5): 555-572.

Goodwin, J. and O’Connor, H. (2009) Whatever Happened to the Young Workers? Journal of Education and Work (Special Issue: Continuity and Change in 40 Years of School to Work Transitions) 22(5): 417-431.

Goodwin, J. and O’Connor, H. (2013) Ordinary Lives: ‘Typical Stories’ of Girls’ Transitions in the 1960s and the 1980s. Sociological Research Online, 18(1)4.

Filmer-Sankey, C., & McCrone, T. (2012). Developing indicators for early identification of young people at risk of temporary disconnection from learning. Slough: NFER.

Hutchinson, J. (2012). Teenage Mothers and Family Career Planning. Derby: International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS), University of Derby.

Hutchinson, J., Korzeniewski, R. and Moore, N. (2011). Career Learning Journeys of Derby and Derbyshire NEETs. Derby: International Centre for Guidance Studies, University of Derby.

O’Connor, H. and Goodwin, J. (2007). Continuity and change in the experiences of transition from school to work. International Journal of Lifelong Education (Special Issue: Transitions from Education to Work) 26(5): 555-572.

Spielhofer, T., Benton, T., Evans, K., Featherstone, G., Golden, S., Nelson, J., & Smith, P. (2009). Increasing Participation: Understanding Young People Who Do Not Participate in Education or Training at 16 and 17 (DCSF Research Report 072). London: DCFS.

Spielhofer, T., Golden, S., Evans, K., Marshall, H., Mundy, E., Pomati, M. and Styles, B. (2010) Barriers to Participation in Education and Training (Department for Education Research Report 009). London: DfE.


A film of the recent NFER expert seminar on young people who are not in education and employment

NFER recently hosted an interesting panel of experts from across education and linked with employers, to discuss findings from its research programme and the challenges in getting young people not in education, employment or training into work.

Thankfully they have put a film of this seminar online so those of us who weren’t there can share in some of the discussion. I found it very interesting.

Watch the NFER expert seminar

Startup loans for young people

I’ve just heard about an interesting new scheme set up by the Government to offer loans to young people who are interested in setting up businesses. I’ve come across this through Brightside who are one of the official delivery partner for the Government. If you are interested in the background to the scheme have a look at the information on the Number 10 website.

For those of you who are working directly with young people it looks like a good opportunity that you might want to bring to some of your learners attention. The scheme offers 18-30 year olds funding on startup-friendly terms and, very importantly, includes one-to-one business mentoring as well. The package includes:

  • Funding:  Between £2,500 and £10,000 per founder, at a fixed interest rate of 6%,
    repayable over 5 years
  • Mentoring: A dedicated business mentor from a relevant background and/or industry
  • Support: Services and discounts from companies such as eBay, Paypal and Regus

Brightside are looking for both potential entrepreneurs to recieve the loans (see and business mentors.  So if any readers of Adventures in Career Develoment have the skills or expertise to help someone start a new business they should get in touch with Brightside’s Start-up Loans coordinator, Mawuli Ladzekpo (

I’ll be watching with interest to see the take up of this scheme and the success rates of the new capitalised and mentored businesses.

Select committee report on Careers Guidance for Young People to report on Wednesday

I’ve heard that the Select Committee report on Careers Guidance for Young People will be released on Wednesday. I can’t say anything about what  will be in it – but I think that it will be worth keeping an eye on the website for when it is published.


House of Commons Education Committee inquiry into careers guidance for young people

Tomorrow sees the first session of the inquiry into careers guidance for young people. The inquiry has been held in the light of the new statutory duty on schools to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance for their pupils in years 9-11.

Written submissions were asked to considering:

  • the purpose, nature, quality and impartiality of careers guidance provided by schools and colleges,
  • including schools with sixth forms and academies, and how well-prepared schools are to fulfil their new duty;
  • the extent of face-to-face guidance offered to young people;
  • at what age careers guidance should be provided to young people;
  • the role of local authorities in careers guidance for young people;
  • the effectiveness of targeted guidance and support offered to specific groups, such as Looked After Children, children eligible for Free School Meals, teenage parents, young offenders, those with special educational needs or disabilities and those at risk of becoming NEET;
  • the link between careers guidance and the choices young people make on leaving school;  
    the overall coherence of the careers guidance offered to young people.

We can expect the inquiry to pursue these issues further.

You can watch the whole thing online at

What is more if you look carefully you might even be able to see me in the background as I’ve been asked to advise the committee.

Alison Wolf on school to work transitions in a liberal economy

Yesterday I saw Alison Wolf talking about school to work transitions at a seminar organised by the Education and Employers Taskforce. Very interesting.

Things got more lively during the questions when people pushed her on whether she was happy with the outcome from her government report. Particularly the fact that it has allowed the government to remove the requirement for work experience. Prof Wolf seemed fairly unrepentent about this move, but at the same time endorsed the value of substantial work experience.

I feel that this has been a big mistake – especially when combined with the reductions of careers education and guidance.

I guess the debate will continue to rage on this one.