Investment in skills and levelling up must deliver for young people 

Oct 27, 2021

Our CEO, Anna Smee, comments on today’s Budget announcements.

Youth Futures Foundation welcomes the Chancellor’s Budget announcements for investing £3.7 billion over the course of parliament to expand T-Levels, quadruple skills bootcamps, upgrade FE Colleges, increase funding for apprenticeships and roll out the Prime Minister’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee.    

For many young people informal, non-formal and vocational training are critical aspects of their life – the informal learning that happens at home and in the community, the non-formal learning after school and at the weekends, and the vocational courses they participate in, are the bedrock of their future lives. This is where role models are found, career advice given, peer groups formed, and new experiences encountered that broaden minds and open doors.  

Furthermore, success typically depends on more than one effective intervention. The connectivity (or lack of it) between academic, informal, non-formal, vocational and statutory services in a local area can determine whether or not marginalised young people transition effectively into work. Yet too little is known about which combination of opportunities and services results in the best outcomes for each cohort of young people.    

These are the areas the Youth Futures Foundation is seeking to understand through research and evaluation to build a global picture of ‘what works’ to support marginalised young people into employment. Tools like our Youth Employment Evidence and Gap Map can help ensure this new investment in skills is spent effectively and efficiently to maximise the benefit for young people.  

The Chancellor’s investment into skills and the £1.7bn allocation for Levelling Up communities across the country must deliver for everyone.   

Jobs and skills play a key role in tackling both inter-regional inequality[i] and inter-generational inequality[ii]. Higher rates of unemployment and underemployment among young people from marginalised backgrounds are a long-term, entrenched problem for the UK that must be addressed to level up.  

The economic cost of higher youth unemployment in terms of lost national output is forecast to be £5.9 billion in 2021, rising to £6.9 billion in 2022. The fiscal cost of higher youth unemployment, in the form of lower tax revenue and higher benefit spending, is forecast to be £2.5 billion in 2021, rising to £2.9 billion in 2022[iii]. 

To ensure the Plan for Jobs levels up opportunities for all, it is important that the government’s focus on our existing workers does not leave young people behind. With unemployment running at 4.5%, record job vacancies and greater participation in education masking the significant challenges young people are facing, inaction may run the risk of leaving our future workforce on the shelf. 

We know young people are less likely to be involved in community decision making. They must have a seat at the table to ensure funding is invested into future-focused, evidence-informed activities that will deliver a brighter future for the next generation. 

Now is the time to act. The Plan for Jobs has averted the worst of the crisis for young people, but too many, with multiple disadvantages and lower qualifications, have been overlooked and continue to be much more likely to become long-term unemployed.  The crisis is not over for many. Long-term unemployment is likely to remain high into 2022.  

[i] Blagden, J. and Greenwood, M. (2021), ‘Levelling up the South West’ (Onward). Available at: https://www.ukonward.com/levelling-up-south-west/  

[ii] Gardiner, L., Gustafsson, M., Brewer, M. et al. (2020), ‘An intergenerational audit for the UK 2020’ (Resolution Foundation). Available at: https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/app/uploads/2020/10/Intergenerational-audit-2020.pdf  

[iii] L&W (2021), ‘Facing the future: Employment prospects for young people after Coronavirus’. Available at: https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/about-the-trust/news-views/2021-learning-and-work-research-launch-with-hsbc