Children and Young People Economy Education

Is the Welsh Government doing enough to assist young people age 16-24 into work?

19 May 2015

Article by Anne Thomas, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

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Assisting young people into work: a report by the National Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee

The National Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee was concerned that if you are under 24 in Wales, you are three times more likely to be unemployed that if you are over 24.

So in autumn 2014, they decided to undertake a policy Inquiry into Assisting Young People into Work to look at how effective the Welsh Government’s policies are. This included scrutinising progress towards the goals outlined in the Welsh Government’s Youth Engagement and Progression Framework which is being rolled-out between 2013 and 2015.

During the Inquiry, Committee Members heard from employers, charities, Careers Wales, local authorities, training providers, colleges and school managers, as well as Julie James, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology and the Wales Audit Office.

They held an informal round table discussion event with key people in Swansea. During the event, many charities, careers advisers and youth workers spoke about the problems that unemployed young people face on a day-to-day basis and the best ways to support these young people to help them become work-ready and ultimately get a job.

Most importantly, Committee Members heard from young people themselves, including at Info-Nation in Swansea. A short video of the comments by young people across Wales is available from the Senedd TV archive, 26 November 2014.

The Enterprise and Business Committee published their report and a summary of the findings on 19 March 2015. The Committee made 16 recommendations.

Both the Committee’s recommendations and the Welsh Government’s response will be debated by the whole Chamber in a Plenary session on Wednesday 20th May.

What young people told Committee Members:

The young people said that the biggest problems they face are a lack:

  • of confidence;
  • of individual careers advice;
  • of understanding how to navigate the local jobs market; and
  • of advice on application forms and interviews.

Another big problem they face is the cost and availability of transport, this makes it more difficult to find a job whether they live in a rural area or large town.

What employers told Committee Members:

The biggest problem for employers is young people not being ready to join the workplace. They said that some young people need better employability skills and attitudes, including punctuality and reliability; social skills and respect for work colleagues; customer care skills; and better essential skills including literacy and numeracy.

The Committee’s recommendations include:

  • Schools should teach ‘work-ready’ skills in all subjects, not just in “Careers and the World of Work”; and the links between employers and schools should be improved.
  • Work experience for learners should be made longer and the placements should be properly organised. Careers Wales should be responsible for making sure work experience placements meet Health and Safety standards and keep a central list of placements.
  • Cheaper travel costs for 16 and 17 year olds under the Youth Concessionary Fare Scheme should be made available to 18 to 24 year olds.
  • Careers Wales should provide face-to-face advice for every young person who needs it. There should be more lead workers to help young people have the support they need to find work.
  • The Welsh Government should work with those who provide benefits to stop young people losing their housing benefit if they start work in a job with low pay.
  • Some young people need more help to start work and keep a job. There should be flexible, potentially longer, courses to help these young people to become work-ready.
  • There are many ways in which charities receive money to help young people find work and increase their skills. This money should be spent wisely.
  • More should be done to promote apprenticeships.

The Welsh Government’s response to the Committee’s recommendations

The response from the Welsh Government is generally positive, saying that many of the recommendations are in line with the Government’s current policy direction and link closely with activities that they are already developing and progressing.

The Deputy Minister has accepted seven of the Committee’s recommendations, a further six were accepted in principle and the remaining three recommendations were rejected.

Some of the Welsh Government’s current policy activities that link with the Committee’s recommendations include: Professor Donaldson’s review of the curriculum; the revised Welsh Baccalaureate Skills Challenge Certificate (from September 2015); and the Numeracy Employer Engagement project (launched in 2013).

The Welsh Government’s future plans include: a review of “Careers and the World of Work” curriculum (including a review of work experience and placements) and an Enhanced Employer Engagement project.

The Welsh Government rejected two recommendations that they should review and evaluate the opportunities that young people have in school to choose vocational courses at age 14 and age 16 and decide whether this balance is appropriate for the modern Welsh economy. The Committee were concerned there still isn’t equal support and parity of esteem between academic and vocational courses and career choices.

In response, the Government said they had established an external 14-19 Task and Finish Review, The review of local collaborative provision at key stage 4, which included looking at the opportunities for young people to access vocational provision and were confident that they had taken appropriate action.

The Welsh Government also rejected the recommendation that the Deputy Minister should reinstate the responsibility on Careers Wales to undertake Health and Safety vetting of work experience placements and to provide a National Work Experience Database. The Deputy Minister said that employers have the primary responsibility for the health and safety of students on work experience placements; and that schools, not Careers Wales, are responsible for the provision of suitable work experience placements.

The Welsh Government’s full response is published on the Plenary agenda: Plenary Agenda Item 5: supporting documents and the Plenary debate will be broadcast live on Senedd TV during the afternoon of Wednesday 20 May 2015.

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