News and Comment

A programme for the NEET generation

Monday 2 June 2014

As an expression it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but the media trend of describing those born between the late eighties and early noughties as “The Millennials” suggests that the generational shorthand begun with the “Baby Boomers” and continued with “Generation X” is a practice that’s here to stay.

There is however another less contrived and more familiar term which would do an equally good job of capturing the collective identity of today’s young people: NEETs.

Latest Government figures show that over 1 million 16-24 year olds in Britain remain out of employment, education and training and thus defined by the dreaded acronym. Elsewhere in Europe the picture is even bleaker with over half of the same age group in Greece and Spain out of work.

In an effort to help young NEETS facing challenging circumstances to improve their life choices, the charity vInspired runs a structured volunteering and social action intervention scheme. The 24/24 programme, which OPM began evaluating in 2011, provides young people with a qualification, work experience and the opportunity to volunteer, with the intention of raising participants’ confidence and aspirations and facilitating the journey into education, employment or training.

In our evaluation of the programme we found that the young people involved acquired a range of hard and soft skills designed to help them both professionally and socially as they enter adult life. These included: enhanced well being, confidence and self-esteem; improved time keeping, increased responsibility and a sense of active citizenship; and the opportunity to gain a Level 2 qualification and workplace experience.

A hugely impressive 98.6 percent of participants rated the overall impact of the programme on them as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.

One such participant, 19 year old Liz, said she felt her involvement with the 24/24 scheme was “a good experience” because it helped her to focus on possible future career:

“I didn’t really know what I was doing when I left school. I applied for hairdressing at college and painting and decorating, and then applied for accounting, and they were all three completely different things. People were always saying to me do you actually know what you want to do? And I didn’t. So coming here’s made me think. I want to make my daughter proud, so I don’t want her to look at me like with no job, just sat at home.”

Another, 24 year old Tanya, praised the volunteering aspect of the programme saying: “Volunteering has been a great way for me to meet different people. Working in an office environment has helped – it’s been an eye opener and I’ve learnt different things and skills for life.”

As we have written about previously, at a time when the level of youth unemployment remains high and circumstances tough, schemes like the 24/24 programme that ensure that young people continue to have opportunities for personal development and progression, become more important than ever.

With a growing body of evidence suggesting that these schemes can deliver positive results, the next challenge will be to scale up delivery and offer more young people the support, experience and learning they need. A failure to do so could leave us referring to another lost generation.