Our Research and Learning Manager responds to the latest report on young people’s career aspirations from Education and Employers

A lack of jobs is one of the biggest challenges young people face today, [1] yet by historic standards, youth unemployment is low after peaking at 1 million NEET in 2011, and a large proportion of those ‘economically inactive’ are in full-time education.

However, youth long-term unemployment (which can include students) is rising as the number of young people spending 12 or more months NEET increases suggesting a more polarised set of outcomes for young people, [2] and young people are still more likely to be unemployed than those from any other age group or be in insecure, low-paid and part-time employment.

This report is right to highlight a disconnect between what young people aspire to be, and the jobs available – recognising that the labour market of today is far more fluid and less secure than in previous years – a ‘job for life’ is very unlikely, and the geographic spread of many particular jobs is increasingly unequal.

As such, we agree with the key recommendations in this report but would suggest that the omission of youth work and other such activities is an oversight. We know from extensive research that employers are looking for evidence of this, as ‘softer skills [are] important in turning technical skills into economically productive ones.’ [3] This is recognised by pupils and teachers who place higher importance on it, [4] and by businesses who report that ‘by far the most important factor employers consider when recruiting school and college leavers is their attitude to work (86%), followed by their aptitude for work (63%) and general academic ability (43%). [5]

So yes, let’s absolutely give young people a better understanding of the labour market, their potential future options and also better careers and employment specific advice that will help them make choices. But let’s also provide the key elements that employers are looking for and which are often not given in the formal education system, and ensure that all young people have the best opportunity to gain employment.

A more comprehensive youth work offer across the country is essential – the latest spending reports from local authorities showing that it is £1bn down in real terms over the decade.

Whilst youth work cannot bridge the ‘disconnect’ between aspirations and reality, it can help increase the options available to young people who are unable to gain that ‘dream job’, and to support those furthest from the labour market in the first instance.


[1] See, I. Wybron et. al., Next Generation UK (British Council : 2017). And; Youth Index 2018. Also, A World of Good.

[2] See; APPG on Youth Employment, Those Furthest from the Labour Market (2018), and, Impetus PEF, Youth Jobs Index 2017 (2017).

[3] Extent, Nature and Impact of Skills Mismatches, p. 77.

[4] The Sutton Trust, Life Lessons: Improving essential life skills for young people (2017). Available at; https://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Life-Lessons-Report_FINAL.pdf

[5] CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey, Helping the UK Thrive (2017). Available at; http://www.cbi.org.uk/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=DB1A9FE5-5459-4AA2-8B44798DD5B15E77

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