Ready for Work: The capabilities young people need to find and keep work – and the programmes proven to help develop these

Published: September 2014 Publication Type: Publication

This report, produced by Impetus-PEF in partnership with the Young Foundation and the Social Research Unit at Dartington (SRU), seeks to provide practical answers to the question: how can we help young people be ready for work? We believe the findings contained here will benefit those who fund, invest in or provide services to improve the employability of young people – including our main concern, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

A crisis in youth unemployment

Even in recovery, there is still a youth unemployment crisis in the UK today, with almost one in five young people out of work. In our report Make NEETs History in 2014, we found that those leaving school with only GCSE-level qualifications (or less) are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as those with better qualifications. Research has shown the life-long negative scarring effect that a sustained period of unemployment can have on a young person’s life. Today’s young people feel the bar to getting a job is higher than ever and face the demoralising prospect of scores of unanswered applications.

Yet a recent study by McKinsey found that around a quarter of employers had left entry-level vacancies unfilled. A third had lost out on business opportunities because they could not find recruits with the right skills. We have a disconnected system which is not equipping young people with the skills, experiences and capabilities they need to be ready for work. Why is this? And what can be done?

The need for clarity

Much research and policy concerns the skills young people need to become work ready and there are lists of the skills, capabilities, experiences and qualifications young people need to secure a job. Most recently, NPC’s 2012 Journey to Employment (JET) Framework and the employability skills developed by the CBI (Fothergill, 2012) provide definitions that speak to the needs and experiences of particular stakeholders.

So the problem is not a lack of information about what makes a young person work ready, but rather the lack of a common, evidence-based language across all stakeholders. Employers are particularly crucial stakeholders and by surveying their needs, we are providing a distinctive guide that will help young people make a successful transition from school to work.

Forging a shared understanding

In this report we argue that it is crucial to have a shared understanding of the vital capabilities young people need to enter the workforce. These six capabilities are typically expected of all employees, old and young, but are rarely communicated clearly and concisely. This report sets out these capabilities and then identifies the programmes proven most successful in helping young people attain them.

Sustained employment for young people will only be achieved through the cultivation of the capabilities employers want. We believe that a joined-up approach between education, business and policymakers will result in young people who are better equipped for work – and employers ready to employ them.

From report to reality

At Impetus-PEF, we intend to lead by example. Our mission is to support young people from low income backgrounds to achieve in education and employment. We do this through our driving impact package of support that helps charities become more skilled at producing real and lasting outcomes for the young people they serve.

We believe Ready for Work is the next step in improving valuable work of all those concerned with young people and school to work transitions. We will help the charities in our portfolio – as well as other organisations and stakeholders – to integrate Ready for Work into their programme design and evaluation. We will also support their use of the six capabilities to performance manage their work with young people. In this way we hope to help more organisations drive impact and produce meaningful, sustained outcomes for young people.