A charity has called for a full review of the way Ofsted grades training providers who run programmes for unemployed young people.
In its new Pathways Into Employment Manifesto, published today, youth charity YMCA calls for a number of changes to current practices, including to the inspectorate's approach to young people who are not in employment, education or training (Neet).
It says that the current framework is limiting opportunities for young people from hard-to-reach groups and penalising training providers for investing time in individuals who may have huge potential but lower initial attainment levels.
"Young people often begin their training with us from a lower starting point and although they achieve great things, it is difficult to reflect their success using the current Ofsted framework," it says.
"More emphasis should be placed on the context of training and the learner’s journey than on final grades."
YMCA is also urging policy-makers to continue tackling the causes of joblessness among young people even though youth unemployment is falling.
It says that although the proportion of neets is the lowest it has been since 2004, the next government cannot afford to think it is “job done”.
The charity is calling for the removal of the current 16-hour rule for young people ?in full-time skills study programmes.
It also believes that there should be an expansion of the scheme to allow the full recovery of training costs to those aged 19 and older in certain sectors where it‘s not always possible to employ younger apprentices, such as healthcare.
The charity has published research in its report Two Futures – The Lost or Found Generation, assessing the current situation of young people in the UK who are still feeling the effects of the 2008 recession.
It says that although youth unemployment is falling, the government cannot wait and let the economic recovery take its course.
Not only does the youth unemployment problem pre-date the economic crisis, it says, but the official figures could be undercounting the scale of the issue as well as masking serious regional problems.
Rosi Prescott, chief executive of Central YMCA, says: “As economic recovery leads to a natural reduction in unemployment there is a danger that, whichever government comes into power at the next election, they will think it’s “job done” when it comes to youth unemployment.
“This cannot be allowed to happen. The impact of sustained unemployment for young people will last for the rest of their lives.
“Even after they re-enter the workforce, young people who have had significant periods of unemployment are at increased risk of becoming unemployed again and, research shows, earn less on average than their peers who have unbroken education and employment histories.
“Efforts need to be made immediately to ensure rates of youth unemployment are reduced and that the opportunities created by economic recovery are also enjoyed by those who have been worst affected by the recession.”
An Ofsted spokesman said it was "clear that more needs to be done to engage with young people who are not in employment, education or training".
“Our inspection framework ensures that inspectors judge provision fairly and highlight successes where they see them," he added.
"Whilst learners’ achievement is a key area for informing judgements, inspectors also consider the progress a learner makes from their starting point during their course or training. Specifically, inspectors look at how well providers enable learners to develop the personal, social and employability skills they need to achieve their goals and progress to further training, education or employment.”
Government 'doesn't know if Neet policies are working' – January 2015
'Reinvigorate' practical learning in schools to tackle Neets, says charity – October 2014
Neets drop to lowest level in England since 2005 – May 2014