Helping young people into work

Youth unemployment is a long standing, major problem in the UK. TUC research has revealed that, since 2000, the number of young people who have been unemployed for more than a year has increased by a massive 874%.

Youth unemployment has a detrimental impact on both society and the young person who can’t find work. It has been estimated that "the net present value of the cost to the Treasury, even looking only a decade ahead, is approximately £28 billion."

The ACEVO report, published in 2012, recognised the far reaching economic impact of youth unemployment. A sustained period of unemployment can result in an average wage penalty of between 13-21% by the time that person reaches 42. Youth unemployment is such a longstanding problem (2004) that the wider economy will already be suffering from the scarring effects of earlier recessions now. Alongside the negative economic impact, youth unemployment has other serious implications for those young people who can’t find work, including, depression, low self esteem and self worth.

Tackling youth unemployment is an important issue for trade unions. Many of our members will have relatives who are unable to get a job. Trade unions have always been at the forefront tackling social injustice.  Making sure that young people are not exploited and helping them to secure quality employment is central to our core principles. Improving skills and qualifications are the best way to secure that that employment.    

The 2012 Department for Business, Innovation & Skills Trade Union Memberships statistics report shows that, over the last 17 years, the proportion of trade union members aged 34 or below has dropped significantly. What better way for unions to re-engage with young people than by negotiating with employers to provide high quality learning and hence employment opportunities?

For these reasons, unionlearn commissioned the Industrial Relations Research Unit at the University of Warwick to explore some of the obstacles that prevent young people gaining the skills they need to make the transition to high quality employment.

Summary findings from the Skills for sustainable employment report are:

  1. We need real “social partnership”.  For example forums for trade unions, employers and the Government to discuss and agree on skills policies for young people. This is the norm across Europe and mature partnership working like this can bring about real benefits for young people. Learning can be taken from our European neighbours by taking a look at some of their excellent Apprenticeship frameworks.
  2. Young people need high quality work experience to help them find work.  The new Traineeships programme could be a useful tool to helping young people receive high quality work experience, which meets their aims and needs.  Unions will play an important role in ensuring work placements don’t lead to the exploitation of young people and deliver real training in a high quality work experience placement.
  3. When public money is used to procure services we can make better use of social clauses to increase high quality skills opportunities for young people. The Government has piloted this idea in the DWP with great success, creating an additional 20,000 Apprenticeships. We will support unions, helping them to negotiate with both private and public sector employers to roll out this concept across the UK.

Trade unions, employers and Government can develop these proposals to provide the long term help which young people need as a matter of urgency.