Investing in young people, irrespective of background

6th April 2017

London is a wealthy, exciting and vibrant city offering some of the best opportunities in the world, but unfortunately not everyone can take advantage of this. Levels of inequality and poverty in London are the highest in the UK, and for young people, the level of inequality is even starker. The youth unemployment (16-24) in London stands at 19.2% compared to a rate of 6.1% for the total London working population.[1]

It is perplexing that youth unemployment is so high given the number of jobs that are advertised in London. Through our conversations with employers and young people, we’ve learnt that there is a clear mismatch between what employers require and what young people can offer.

Career guidance in schools is not as strong as it could be when it comes to vocational training. There are limited opportunities for work experience, with an over reliance on the network of parents and family and a lack of access to training and employment support. At the same time, there are many employers who are looking to diversify their staff base but who are unsuccessful as they use traditional recruitment methods that inadvertently exclude young people.

The theme of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week was ‘Ladder of Opportunity’, focusing on progression routes of apprenticeships, from trainee-ships through to higher and degree apprenticeships and we saw some great initiatives being launched.

Building on its commitment to secure three million apprenticeship starts by 2020, the government also reported 624,000 apprenticeship starts since May 2015.

Apprenticeships have seen more changes than most forms of training or education in its structure, scope and funding over the last decade. None more far reaching than the introduction of the apprenticeship levy today and the phasing-in of the new business led apprenticeship standards. There has also been a huge acceleration in take-up and provision of apprenticeships over the past few years which has brought apprenticeships firmly under the political spotlight.

Getting young people into work is one of the greatest social challenges we face today and there is often discussion over the lack of skills within the industry, and we’re playing a small but vital part in addressing this gap.

Here at the Mayor’s Fund, we believe our role is to connect networks of employers and young people, and to help young people understand their career aspirations and to match these to a diverse range of opportunities.

Our unique position also enables us to bring together key stakeholders from the public, private and third sector, including young people themselves, to consider the challenges faced by young Londoners and to build solutions.

Working with Team London, our Enterprise Advisor programme supports London secondary schools to get young people ready for the world of work by creating networks of business volunteers and school leaders.

Our Young London Working job brokerage offers opportunities for 18-24 year-old Londoners to establish themselves as employable young adults by providing direct access to over 400 employers, creating pathways to employment, apprenticeships and work experience. Part of this is providing two-weeks of intensive pre-employability training; just last week, a group of 25 inspirational young people successfully completed the course.

And our arts-based employability project, Creativity Works, is focussed around generating greater access to the sector for 17-24 year-olds. It also benefits young people through transferable skills, raising confidence and self-belief.

Ensuring that young Londoners are equipped with the skills they need to help them move into great careers, through education or training, as well as apprenticeships is an ongoing challenge and one that requires joined-up thinking.

As businesses try to get to grips with the apprenticeship levy, we must all take responsibility for the continuous investment in our young people, irrespective of their background, to enable them to take full advantage of the opportunities this city has to offer and for them to positively participate in their community.

[1] Data covers 12 months to September – Source: 16 ONS Labour Force Survey (Table AO7) Access Through London Datastore Mar 17