The latest report from Impetus – The Private Equity Foundation (Impetus – PEF) calls on the Government to take radical action in 2014 to make youth unemployment a thing of the past.  Why 2014?  It’s the year the millennium kids, those young people born in the year 2000 turn fourteen – an important year for them as they make choices about the GCSE’s they will study which can have a profound impact on their future career chances.  What advice and support the millennium kids receive this year is critical if we are to ensure they are adequately prepared to make a successful transition from education into work when their time comes to do so.

There are some scary statistics in the report, but maybe the starkest is the wage scaring effect of youth unemployment.  A young person who spends as little as six months unemployed before they reach twenty-four will on average earn less than their counterparts well into their forty’s.  A non-graduate young person who has been NEET will lose nearly £50,000 compared with another non-graduate who hasn’t been NEET and nearly £225,000 compared with a graduate.  A shocking £6.4 billion wages our millennium kids will lose.

So how do we reduce the risk of young people becoming NEET?  The report makes three recomendations that are all designed to tackle the structural causes of Britain’s NEET epidemic: create a Secretary of State for School to work transitions who will be responsible for building and realising the vision for Britain’s youth labour market and ensuring there is a clear line of responsibility for making NEETS history.  Second the report calls for changes to the pupil premium, making schools more accountable for disadvantaged student’s post-education destinations not just their academic attainment.  Third the report recommends ofsted be charged with holding schools to account for their efforts to produce school leavers who are ready to work.

Neither the report nor its recommendations will come as much of a shock to those working with young people either inside or outside of school.  We can predict with high levels of accuracy those young people who are most at risk of dropping out of education, the risk factors are well documented and understood.  Yet the links between education and work readiness are often ignored.  If we are to reverse the youth unemployment trend policy must not only focus on those who are already NEET, but also on what experiences, qualifications and skills are fourteen, fifteen and sixteen year olds require whilst at school to prepare them for employment.  Let’s make 2014 the year we act, we owe to our millennium kids – let’s make NEETs history.

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