Neets regard employability schemes with 'contempt'

16th April 2010 at 01:00
Barnardo's Scotland director says short-term experience and CV honing are seen as pointless

Young people not in education, employment or training - Neets - view courses designed to improve their job prospects with contempt, according to the director of Barnardo's Scotland.

What they need are real jobs and programmes that lead to employment, rather than work experience or time spent working on their CVs, Martin Crewe has argued.

Mr Crewe told a conference in Edinburgh, on "More Choices More Chances", that he worries when he hears announcements about programmes aimed at young people which boast that they will "gain valuable work experience, develop employable skills and increase their chances of moving up the careers ladder".

That was not what they wanted, he said, adding: "What they want are real jobs and programmes that will get them employed - not a short-term placement which will leave them more or less back where they started.

"Sitting around in classrooms for long periods working on their CVs is not going to provide a major boost to the employability prospects of the young people we work with. They know it from day one and regard such schemes with contempt."

Many ended up on the Barnardo's Works programme, which aims to provide genuine opportunities in employment for young people, Mr Crewe said (see box, right).

The scheme, which began 10 years ago and is aimed at 16- to 25-year-olds, gets 80 per cent of participants into sustained employment, thereby ending their reliance on benefits.

The programme's success is partly thanks to the charity's strong partnerships with local authorities and employers, ranging from Scottish and Southern Energy to local shops.

Public sector employers, particularly the NHS, have taken part but the vast majority of work placements are with the private sector.

Barnardo's helps employers fund the placements and supports the young people, particularly in the first few weeks.

Mr Crewe said the charity "provides a safety net to make sure the young people get to work everyday - texting them to check that they have got out of bed".

In exchange, the charity expects employers to provide on-site mentors and to identify a real job that needs doing. "The last thing we want to see happen is that one of our young people comes to the end of their six months with a company and, despite doing well, is told that there is not a permanent position for them," Mr Crewe said.

By the end of this year, Barnardo's Works will have supported 270 young people in five areas of Scotland - Paisley, Dundee, Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The charity also hopes to set up a rural arm soon, which will aim to get 20 young people living in or near the Cairngorm national park into work each year.

Nevertheless, finding employment during a recession was tough, Mr Crewe concluded.

emma.seith@tes.co.uk

CALL FOR ACTION

Around one in seven Scottish school leavers - 14 per cent - are not in "positive destinations", according to government figures for September 2009. That number, who are not in education, employment or training (Neet), has barely budged over recent years.

The position is mirrored throughout the UK, as a House of Commons report published last week noted: the figure has fluctuated between 8 and 14 per cent of 16- to 18-year-olds in the past 20 years. The report, by MPs on the Children, Schools and Families committee, calls for radical action.

It proposes improved benefit support to unemployed young people who take up education, training or work. Social security matters remain the responsibility of the UK Parliament.

Despite an extensive system of financial aid for 16- to 18-year-olds in education or training, those in the Neet group face barriers to study in the wider benefits system, according to the report.

Committee members travelled to the Netherlands to investigate its system of offering relatively generous levels of benefit to young people in exchange for a greater level of compulsion to take up education, training or work.

The report says: "We recommend the Government considers the merits of this approach. It is particularly important that the most disadvantaged 16- and 17-year-olds should not be deterred from pursuing opportunities in education and training by the constraints of the benefits system."

`FRUSTRATION' REMOVED

Frankie Brady, pictured below, is taking part in the Barnardo's Works programme for the second time. The first time round his placement as a mechanical engineer involved attending college, which turned out to be a bit too like school: "boring and frustrating".

Frankie explains: "I got frustrated with school and college because, when I struggled, I withdrew and never got any help. I never had the confidence to ask."

Now Frankie, who is 18 and from Dundee, is working for Bradley Removals. He loves the role because he is "always working".

His goal is to keep the job when his six-month placement ends.

"If he continues to be as successful as he has been so far, he will get a permanent job," says Yvonne Wood, a senior practitioner at the Dundee Barnardo's Works project. "On Monday, he starts a temporary contract."

Original paper headline: Neets regard employability schemes with `contempt', claims charity

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