1 in 5 young people unemployed: how has it come to this?
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has announced the rate of unemployment in the UK is now at 7.7%, but Youth unemployment has risen by 66,000 to 965,000 – the highest figure since records began in 1992.
Despite the government unveiling a £60 million apprenticeship and work placement scheme aimed at boosting work prospects for the group, this has arrived far too late. The scheme promises to fund up to 250,000 more apprenticeships over the next four years, and 100,000 work placements over the next two.
One charity that has been setting the standard for encouraging youth employment is Futureversity, which offers free courses for 11-25 year olds.
I first heard about Futureversity two years ago whilst working on a feature about things students can do in their summer holidays. I had no idea anything like this existed and having researched the charity further, I can’t seem to find any downside.
Fresh out of school, if any young person isn’t going onto higher education, they should be well-equipped to enter the working world, or at the very least with a strong idea as to which direction they’re going in and which steps to take first.
I was astounded at how poor the careers advice was at my school. It was a standard set of tick boxes which outlined your field of interest – I already knew I liked film and maths, but accountancy looked desperately unappealing and media studies was becoming over-subscribed- so it didn’t help.
The general tip was that university was a good way to go if you wanted to succeed. There was no mention of the plethora of career paths out there in the big wide world or much help outside of reaching the all-important exam results targets.
Futureversity was set up in 1995 as a crime prevention initiative in Tower Hamlets where there is the second-highest rate of child poverty in the UK. In 2006 it was commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools & Families to replicate the model across London – which came into play 2008 when the scheme was running in all 32 boroughs. The aim now? To go nationwide.
In 2009, a pilot scheme ran in the area of Oldham, Manchester and youth crime decreased by 68%. And that’s not their only impressive statistic:
- 80% of attendees said they felt more positive about their future after their course
- 63% said that they would like to get more involved in their local community afterwards
- 93% said they had developed new skills
Boredom is a major reason which can be attributed to anti-social behaviour. Rather than branding youths with ASBOs the money would have been better spent with giving them something to do as an alternative. The courses Futereversity offers also aren’t necessarily the typical subjects you’d find in the classroom; Investment Banking, Indian Cookery, Youth Work, First Aid (although why this isn’t mandatory in schools in the first place is beyond me).
There are many young people who are more than willing to become case studies for the charity because they‘re grateful for the opportunity it gave them, and fully understand it acted as the catalyst they needed to turn their lives around.
Dizzee Rascal took a music production course in 2001 and has become a patron for the charity as a result. Having been previously expelled from four schools, the course offered a different environment to how he’d been taught in the past and consequently he feels he owes a lot to the charity.
“I just wanted to be a part of it” commented the rapper. “It was something to do in the summer, it’s constructive and I know how much good it could do if it got bigger. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be nationwide.”
Spreading the Futureversity model across 32 London boroughs cost £5million over 5 years, youth unemployment costs the government £90 million a week in lost productivity and benefits.
Although the charity holds an annual auction with donated gifts (including an impromptu donation this year from Dizzee Rascal of his very own shoes), Futureversity relies significantly on private funding and has support from a selection of big companies, including the BBC, Bank of America and Burberry. People can also volunteer if they’re an expert in their field by offering to teach young people about their skills.
Director Danny Boyle is another supporter of the cause, hoping to give something back to the community that has homed many of his films. As well as working on the London Olympics, he’s focusing his efforts on championing the charity:
“Any initiative that encourages kids to not feel despair about where they are going to find work, and gives them a lift and a bit of inspiration, is definitely worth it.”
Whilst the new government scheme is of course a step in the right direction, Trades Union Congress General Secretary Brendan Barber has commented that the Government’s youth jobs package has not gone far enough:
“Anything that helps a single young person into work or quality training is welcome, but these proposals fail to match the guarantees given by the now defunct Future Jobs Fund.”
The Prince’s Trust has today also warned that thousands of young people from Britain’s poorest families believe they will achieve “few” or “none” of their goals in life, fostering the growth of a new “youth underclass”.
Leading economist Professor David Blanchflower added “This report highlights the urgent need to tackle social immobility in the UK. There is an ambition crisis among our poorest young people, causing thousands to lose faith in their own abilities and aspirations. These feelings of hopelessness are often passed down from generation to generation and can spread throughout our most deprived communities.”
The fact that 1 in 5 young people are now unemployed is a shocking statistic. On top of this, 70,000 school age offenders enter the youth justice system every year. Schemes like this are invaluable to the public by helping to tackle these huge social problems from the roots, so let’s support them before the number of young people without work in the UK reaches one million. There’s no reason why it should come to this.Tagged in: danny boyle, dizzee rascal, futureversity, unemployment, youth crime
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter