Executive summary

Youth unemployment has long been a policy concern because of the ‘scarring effects’ on individuals and the economy. The issue came back to the fore during the recession as youth unemployment increased more rapidly than the overall level of unemployment as the recession deepened, hitting record high levels in 2011.

This report aims to build understanding amongst local and national policy makers on the most effective ways to improve employment outcomes for young people in the UK as the economy moves into recovery and more jobs are available. It draws out eight lessons from local partnership initiatives around the world:

  1. Early intervention is crucial to the prevention of youth unemployment and disengagement over the longer term – Harlem Children’s Zone in New York (p.17) and the London Challenge.
  2. Partnerships between educational providers and employers can help young people to develop the skills employers want and promote career planning and aspirations among young people – Career Academies in US cities and Local Training Pacts for Vocational Training in North West Westphalia.
  3. Strong partnership with employers means young people are more likely to develop the skills employers want and employers are more likely to recruit programme participants – REVIT in Rotterdam.
  4. Targeted intervention can lead to better outcomes. And different approaches are required for those that are ‘disengaged youth’ vs ‘work ready’ – Youth Competence Centres in Antwerp.
  5. Tailored, continuous support can re-engage young people and help ensure they complete their qualification or course, or stay in employment – Bladerunners in Vancouver and Third Way in Vocational Training Initiative.
  6. Interventions are more likely to be effective if a coherent package of measures is in place to address the multiple barriers to work that young people may face – Youth Connexions in Hertfordshire .
  7. Intelligence and evaluation is crucial to effective design and delivery of programmes – Youth Employability Services in Brighton.
  8. Greater flexibility at local level can deliver greater efficiencies and better outcomes for young people – Total Place Pilot in Worcestshire and Community Budget Pilot in the Tri-London Boroughs.

Different cities will require different polices to effectively address the core issues both the young people and the distinctive local economies face. They are also more likely to have a good grasp of the specific barriers young people face in the city, how to target the most disengaged and what training and employment opportunities are available.

Local organisations are better placed too to build relationships with young people, employers and education facilities and so provide a joined up approach to tackling disengagement and unemployment, as is increasingly recognised by Government policy.

Youth employment programmes have historically been characterised by limited flexibility at the local level. As a result, bids for funding for local youth unemployment initiatives were a feature of many City Deal and Growth Deal proposals. The Government now needs to go further to ensure local partners have the flexibility to respond to the unique challenges they face.

The key recommendations are:

  • National Government should ensure local partners (including voluntary organisations working with young people and strategic bodies such as Local Enterprise Partnerships) have access to long-term funding to create greater certainty for local programmes;
  • National Government should enable local public service providers to coordinate support for young people by pulling together services in a way that works for individuals;
  • The Department for Work and Pensions should devolve commissioning of the Youth Contract and Work Programme to cities post-2016;
  • Local partners need to invest in robust assessment and evaluation of programmes to understand what works; and
  • Good national and sub-national networks should be in place to identify and share best practice between providers, cities and other stakeholders.