‘Overlooked’ and ‘Left behind’ young people can lead to poverty

House of LordsToday saw the announcement of a report compiled by the House of Lords Social Mobility Committee: Overlooked and left behind: improving the transition from school to work for the majority of young people

From the outset the report recognises that the transition from school into work is a vital point in the lives of young people. And that making a successful transition through a high quality and valued pathway can mean a successful career or the alternative of becoming trapped in poor quality and under-valued alternatives can lead to a lifetime of poverty.

Emphasis is also given to the fact that not much attention has been given to the young people between two groups; those who progress in Further Education or at the other end of the scale, not in education, employment or training (NEET).

The ‘forgotten’ or ‘overlooked’ group by policy-makers is the largest group of young people. In 2013/14, England’s total population of 16 and 17 year-olds was 1,285,800, only 47 per cent of young people (601,500 people) aged 16 and 17 started A-Levels, whereas 53 per cent (684,300) did not do so.

The report calls for Government to make eight recommendations to support the development of a coherent and navigable transition system for those aged 14–24.

The recommendations request a cohesive system: a core curriculum for those aged 14–19, with tailor made academic or vocational elements, a gold standard in careers advice, and careers education in schools that empowers young people to make good decisions about their future. Underpinning this system, the committee request that reliable and publicly available data is needed that is properly funded, owned by a single Minister, and monitored for success.

It also recognises that there is a growing gap in income between the richest and the poorest and that this gap makes it all the more difficult to access top high earning jobs which command high wages. In addition to negative impacts on individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, OECD analysis suggests that income inequality has a negative and statistically significant impact on medium-term growth

Labour market changes are also called for; it understands that the types of jobs available are very important to social mobility. That with changes to the economy that provide more and better jobs with better pay and more security can have a positive impact.

Many of the ‘overlooked’ group from the middle cohort are often caught in part-time, low-paid, low-skilled and temporary jobs. After leaving school or college they take on are jobs such as kitchen and catering assistants and serving staff in bars and restaurants, as well as roles in sales and customer service. Ways to progress from these roles is often not clear or achievable, meaning that the young people are disadvantaged from those with degrees.

Further in the report it adds, “Children who are exposed to certain factors in their background are more likely to have poor outcomes later in life. Some of these problems of access are exacerbated by ‘opportunity hoarding.’ Parents naturally want their children to have the best chances of a successful life.”

The committee conducted a series of engagement activities gathering evidence including focus groups and surveys.  Some of the young people they heard from told them how their backgrounds had affected them: “When I left School I wasn’t able to complete college courses as there was no fixed home address.”

Ibid, another survey participant was quoted “Due to staying at home to help my mum one occasion, I was stripped of my bursary and so unable to travel to college. It was the only college to offer the course I was on. I wasn’t allowed to sit the end of unit assessments and as such, unable to progress to the next level course. I am now in the situation where I cannot get … funding due to studying a different course. As my options of education have now run out I have been forced to apply for universal credit.

I have been doing unpaid work experience for the past three and a half weeks while waiting the 35 days before I receive any payment. Growing up in a poor family anyway, it has been very difficult to find the means to travel to and from the job centre, so I already owe a lot of money to family members.”


Calls for a clearer policy framework and more effective delivery mechanism

(Recommendation 1)
A need for more coherence in the UK Government’s policy governing the transition of young people into the workplace. The policy should set out a framework for school to work transitions from age 14 to age 19 and over. It should explicitly address the middle route to work, and the decision-making that takes place from 14 onwards, and set the standard for sharing best practice across the UK.

(Recommendation 2)
The transition stage should be considered to be from age 14 to age 19. Learning during this stage should include a core curriculum with tailor-made academic and/or vocational courses. It should aim to get as many people who can, up to a Level 3 qualification. There are three important strands to the framework:

(a) Clearer routes to good-quality work for those in the middle, brought about by local collaboration, to enable .

  • vocational routes to work which are robust and high quality, do not close down future opportunities, and lead to worthwhile destinations. The work of the Sainsbury led review should contribute to this.
  • meaningful experiences of work, organised between the student, the school and a local employer, including work placements and work-based training. Any work experiences undertaken must have a clear aim and objective to prepare young people for work and life.

(b) A new gold standard in independent careers advice and guidance, supported by a robust evidence base and drawing on existing expertise, which moves responsibility away from schools and colleges (which would require legislative change) in order to ensure that students are given independent advice about the different routes and qualifications available, to include:

  • independent, face-to-face, careers advice, which provides good quality, informed advice on more than just academic routes, so that individuals are able to make decisions based on sound knowledge of what is available.
  • a single access point for all information on vocational options, including the labour market returns on qualifications.

(c) Improved careers education in schools, to empower young people to make good choices for themselves to include;

  • information on labour market returns, which would include information about the financial prospects of different options, to inform and motivate young people.
  • data on local labour markets to inform the teaching of Life Skills, skills for life, and careers education.

(Recommendation 3)
This transition framework should be owned by, and be the responsibility of, a Cabinet-level minister, who will assume ultimate responsibility for the transition from school to work for young people.

(Recommendation 4)
Transitions from school to work should be supported by publicly available data, compiled by the relevant Government departments. This data should be made available to researchers so that they have access to earnings data, study patterns, and different demographic patterns, brought about by legislative change if necessary.

(Recommendation 5)
Recommend that the responsible Cabinet Minister should report on progress annually to Parliament.

(Recommendation 6)
Increasingly local labour markets and skills needs are being seen as a devolved responsibility, whether it is to conurbations such as London, Manchester or Leeds, or to rural areas such as Somerset or Lincolnshire. However, because administrative structures are so much in flux, there is often no focal point for action. The most valuable role the Government can take is to act as a facilitator, coordinating the efforts of its existing structures, and brokering collaboration between existing local bodies such as further education colleges, schools, local authorities, local enterprise partnerships and employers.

(Recommendation 7)
The Government should keep under constant review the degree of success of transitions into work for those in the middle. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission should play a strong part in monitoring these transitions.

(Recommendation 8)
That the Government should commission a cost benefit analysis of increasing funding for careers education in school and independent careers guidance external to the school in the context of 110 IMPROVING THE TRANSITION FROM SCHOOL TO WORK social mobility. A report providing this analysis should be made to Parliament before the end of its 2016–17 session.

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