Business must engage with NEET-some suggestions on how


The latest labour market statistics show that 18% of young people aged 18 to 24 are out of work. This is an increase of 0.7% which is seven times greater than the rise in unemployment as a whole. In short, young people have been hardest hit by the economic downturn.

 Yet these figures give just a part of the picture. In reality, the percentage of young people outside education employment or training over the past decade has been consistently over 8% and has even passed 10% – evidence that volatile employment figures are masking the fact that youth disengagement is a far deeper problem. For the most marginalised young people, the job market has never seemed further away. Many face multiple barriers to employment, education or training (substance misuse, homelessness or mental health issues) yet they are currently lost in the noise surrounding youth unemployment, as attention focuses on those closest to the job market, such as school-leavers and graduates. (who are also encountering huge problems)

 The most recent Labour Force Survey has found that there are 810,000 young people in the UK Not in education, employment or training (NEET) – 16.6% of those aged 16-24.

 The level of inactivity among young people has risen dramatically since the onset of the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008 and the subsequent recession. A recent report by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that 38% of NEET young people aged 16 and 17 could be classed as sustained NEET, meaning that they were most likely to remain NEET for a significant length of time, often as a result of a negative experience of school, higher levels of truancy and exclusion, and lack of educational attainment. As a result of these factors many of the UK’s most excluded young people are likely to require a great deal of intensive support to overcome their barriers to participation and reengage in mainstream education, employment or training. Much of this support needs to come from business. Large scale youth unemployment among young people creates serious economic and social problems. The cost incurred to the UK economy by economic inactivity among young people amounts to £3.6 billion a year, approximately £1 billion of which is paid out as Job Seekers Allowance. This is likely to increase over the next year, as unemployment rises. It is estimated that, following a year out of education or employment, a young person only has a 44% chance of entering education, training or a job. Furthermore, economic inactivity perpetuates a worklessness culture that can be passed on to future generations of young people and studies have shown that NEET young people are more likely to experience poor mental and physical health, to be convicted of a criminal offence, and to fail to gain formal qualifications. In the face of this challenge, a new report from the charity Fairbridge, ‘Engage’, shows that the support offered to disadvantaged young people by partnerships between the third sector and business is more important than ever. The aim of the report is to provide a toolkit of recommendations to facilitate effective partnerships between business and third sector agencies. Having achieved this, it is Fairbridges hope that by 2012 one third of large businesses (publicly and privately held) should be working with and supporting young people who have been unable to remain in work or education.

 The report calls for all businesses, large or small, to take an active role in supporting young people. Its recommendations focus on what businesses, charities and the Government can do, to become effective partners on the NEETs agenda, and to support effective modes of partnership in others.

 In its partnership toolbox it has identified the behaviours, for both businesses and voluntary sector partners,that facilitate effective partnership, and it recommends some actions that can support these behaviours. There are different types of partnership models identified. The report found that synergistic partnerships, that is those characterised by mutuality between the two partners – “equal partnerships of mutual respect” – a rich set of interactions and multiple-level relationships between a business and its voluntary sector partner- was the most effective in producing results offering and the greatest ‘value add’: for all stakeholders for the business; for the voluntary sector organization; and for the young people themselves. The report concluded that the most powerful partnerships are driven and sustained by the organizational benefits delivered to both parties. If voluntary sector organisations can focus on the direct bottom-line benefits to business, they can have a very different conversation with potential business partners. Businesses and voluntary sector organisations need to ensure that they have a good organizational fit and that they can build a strong and effective working relationship. Starting small and then expanding over time is an excellent strategy, particularly for smaller businesses and voluntary sector organisations which do not have extensive experience in partnership working. For example the company offers rooms for the charity to have meetings in, or gives technological support or shares the skills of their accountants or marketing department. But the relationship can deepen, involving everyone from the management team through to the “shop floor”. These kinds of partnerships are invariably the ones that offer the greatest mutual benefit: businesses gain the opportunity for staff to develop new skills, charities gain the benefit of a wider range of expertise and young people have an insight into the world of work.

The report provides some useful ideas about how to structure the relationship between businesses and third sector organization to help the NEET category which so desperately needs assistance to help engage or re-engage in the job market or training


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