It’s not easy for young people to find work. The labour market is more competitive than ever, employers are more selective, and the amount of true entry level jobs with prospects is decreasing. This hits disadvantaged young people the hardest; those with a host of additional barriers they have get over such as a poor school history, a lack of family support and mental health challenges. We exist to equip these young people to overcome their disadvantage, develop their talents, and find meaningful employment.

A host of research from organisations such as the Prince’s Trust, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Confederation of British Industry, Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, Impetus-Private Equity Foundation, OECD and others demonstrates conclusively that when a young person finds a decent job and keeps it for a year, their life chances increase massively.

Many researchers and organisations like us often use the term ‘NEET’ when we’re thinking about the young people we want to help. NEET stands for ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training.’ Being NEET and being unemployed are not necessarily the same thing. To be officially classed as unemployed, a young person has to be ‘economically active’ in other words, ready, willing, available and actively looking for work. By contrast someone classed as NEET ‘economically inactive’ in that they are neither ready for nor actively in pursuit of work.

The term NEET is useful in getting us to think about the host of issues that might stop someone from finding work, but it is unhelpful in the way it can cause us to describe disadvantage young people in mainly negative terms, that is, by what they’re not doing. That’s why at TwentyTwenty we’re so keen on using our strengths based approach which focuses on highlighting and developing the positive inherent capabilities that young people have.

Nonetheless the phrase NEET remains useful in many ways, especially when it comes to statistics about young people’s disengagement from education and/or employment.

Latest government statistics show there are 67000 NEET 16-24 year olds across the East Midlands (12.2% which is significantly higher than the same period for the last two years). On the toughest estates in the region, official reports show that the average NEET rate is often higher again, sometimes 15%+, and amongst certain priority groups greater still, E.g. Care leavers (25%+), young offenders (45%+), teenage mums (65%+).

Therefore many government interventions to reduce NEET rates (e.g. raising the minimum age of participation in education to 18, increasing the amount of apprenticeships available, the Youth Contract) have spectacularly failed to have any real impact on those needing it most. More recently, the government’s drive to improve the academic rigour of GCSEs has not been met with a similar commitment to invest more money into the extra training disadvantaged young people need to meet this standard. This has meant that many organisations like us have been left to pick up the slack and the tab, and coupled with widespread funding cuts, some just haven’t coped. Across the UK many of them have simply had to shut up shop.

We remain committed to looking beyond the statistics to the stories of real young lives that need organisations like us to remain strong stable and committed to their progress.

In the East Midlands, a mere 1% rise in the 16-24 NEET rate equates to 5500 young people with reduced life chances. But there are some young people that changes in the NEET rate don’t affect; those that are the most disadvantaged and have been NEET for the longest time; those from chaotic unsupportive backgrounds, with high historical family involvement with police and social service and welfare agencies, and a deficit of education, qualifications, confidence, mental wellbeing and direction.

We’ve witnessed a higher than ever incidence of such complex needs amongst those accessing our services, as have other similar organisations locally and nationally that we’re in regular contact with.  A recent report compiled by CivSoc Consulting cited specific data relating to young adults in Leicester with complex needs compared with similar data for 2012/13 and 2014/15. Without exception, demand for services in each category of need has increased, sometimes significantly.

Skills assessments reports by Local Enterprise Partnerships highlight that the historic mismatch between the skills employers require and those possessed by young people still prevails, and that too many have a poor understanding of the range of potential career options open. Another study by NFER indicated the increasingly competitive and selective labour market, exacerbated by more experienced people aged 50+ seeking employment; a challenge most keenly felt by those furthest from education and employment.

Those who are long term NEET can suffer from a ‘scarring’ that is both psychological (e.g. ever shrinking self-confidence and self-worth) and financial (limited skill development leading to ever less likelihood of employment). We believe that no young person should endure this, in the present or the future. We believe that every young person can build a bright future. We believe that every young person is a resource to be developed and not a problem to be solved, and has inherent worth and capabilities that can be nurtured. We believe that all young people deserve a fair crack at getting a good job and enjoying a productive life.

What we believe, we practice. Everything we do, day in day out, is about working with young people to create the conditions and opportunities where they can thrive.

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