Analysis Reveals the Postcode Lottery of Youth Employment Opportunities

New analysis from Centre for Cities for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) has revealed the ‘postcode lottery’ that shapes young people’s job opportunities throughout the UK.

Press release published on 12 February 2015

Undertaken as part of the UKCES’ Catch 16-24: Youth Employment Challenge report, the Centre’s analysis identified some Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas in the UK where less than 30 per cent of businesses offer work experience opportunities – despite the fact that two-thirds of businesses recognise that ‘previous experience’ is critical when recruiting new staff.

With 40 per cent of Britain’s unemployed under the age of 25, the discrepancies in opportunities for placements can make a crucial difference in determining the pathways young people are offered in the critical early stages of their careers.
Most troublingly, work experience placements were found to be most limited in places with the highest youth unemployment levels – threatening to entrench cycles of worklessness, or force young people to move outside of their communities in search of employment.

In the Humber, which faces one of the highest job seekers’ allowance claimant rates for 16 to 25-year-olds in England, just 29 per cent of employers offer work experience opportunities. Other ‘blackspot’ LEPs highlighted in the analysis include Cumbria, Leicester and Leicestershire, Sheffield City Region, Swindon and Wiltshire, and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.

By contrast, companies in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and the Thames Valley are offering a wide range of opportunities to help young people experience life in the workplace, and get their foot on the jobs ladder. These areas are also home to high proportions of knowledge-intensive businesses, have low unemployment and stronger levels of job vacancies.

Bucking the trend are Liverpool, Cheshire and Warrington, and Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEPs, which – despite some economic challenges – have companies which offer high levels of work experience opportunities to their young residents.

Nationally, around 60 per cent of UK employers offered no work placements last year, and almost 20 per cent stated that no incentives could encourage them to do so in the future.

The UKCES report also tracked employers’ take-up of “work inspiration” activities, including holding mock interviews, delivering talks and offering site visits, which are intended to bring young people in education into closer contact with workplaces. The Centre’s analysis found that while almost 20 per cent of employers offered some kind of work inspiration, there were once again large differences in opportunities across the UK – from only 11 per cent of employers in the Tees Valley to 25 per cent of employers in Cheshire and Warrington, and a strong showing from the South of England.

The Catch 16-24: Youth Employment Challenge report builds on findings of the UKCES’s Employer Perspectives Survey, which interviewed over 18,000 employers across the UK to canvass their attitudes to work experience and ‘work inspiration’ opportunities. The Survey found that employers are most likely to offer work experience to aid recruitment, rather than for altruistic or civic reasons.

Commenting on the report, Andrew Carter, Acting Chief Executive, Centre for Cities, said:
“These are important findings, providing a unique geographical perspective to the important research undertaken by UKCES. Our analysis highlights the different challenges young people in different places across the country face when trying to take those important first steps onto the career ladder, and how much work there is still to be done by Government and businesses. While it is welcome to see that unemployment is generally falling, we must not forget that it was the youth who were hit the hardest by the recession, and that there are currently almost a million young people not in education, employment or training. In addressing these challenges Government needs to provide clear policies that help better match young people with employers and existing job opportunities. But businesses have to play their part as well. Ultimately only they can provide the jobs and career pathways that will help future generations to have fulfilling careers and contribute positively to driving economic growth.”

Read the full report here.

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