Sustainable transitions from education to employment

Sandwell Council recently announced the Sandwell Guarantee, which aims to help up to 4000 young people aged 16-24 who are currently on benefits or NEET to find paid jobs, apprenticeships, internships or work experience with local businesses. Sandwell’s scheme demonstrates the central role local authorities can play in supporting young people’s transitions from education to employment, deploying a range of the levers I flag up in my recent review of the levers of local economic development for the ESRC, the LGA and Solace. For instance, Sandwell is:

  1. Bringing together a range of local agencies who work with young people from a variety of angles such as Job Centre Plus, schools, colleges and the third sector
  2. Acting as a bridge between labour demand and labour supply, as demonstrated elsewhere by the Essex Employment and Skills Board
  3. Looking to local solutions by incentivising local businesses with a contribution to wage costs

However, the key question for schemes such as these is: will young people find sustained employment when their subsidised placement ends? Larger national programmes have had wildly different outcomes in this respect:

  • Jobs Growth Wales provides young people aged 16-24 with a 6-month job opportunity paid at minimum wage, with a view to then moving them into longer term employment. According to written evidence from the Welsh Government, as of April 2013 (one year into the programme), of those who completed the scheme, 79% had entered sustained employment.
  • The Work Programme works with a range of providers to support people into work over a period of two years. According to DWP data, as of April 2013 43% of 18-24 year-olds participating in the Work Programme in Wales had achieved a ‘job outcome’ (had been in work for at least 13 weeks).

Each scheme has its own definition of ‘sustained employment’, and the Work Programme does not support 16 and 17 year-olds. However, these figures demonstrate how programmes to support young people into employment can differ dramatically in terms of one of their most important outcomes: achieving lasting integration into the labour market. On the face of it, The Work Programme’s outcomes for young people compare poorly to those being achieved across the border in Wales. There’s a strong case for a more localised skills agenda which better understands the shape of the local labour market and can work more closely with local agencies that support all aspects of young people’s lives. All eyes should be on local authorities such as Sandwell and Essex, to see if these local schemes can achieve more sustainable outcomes for young people looking to navigate their way into fulfilling employment.