Reflections from party conferences

Nov 7, 2023

Youth Futures Foundation attended the Conservative and Labour party conferences for the first time in October.

The whole team, which included members of our Future Voices Group, got involved, taking part in and speaking at as many roundtables, panel events and receptions as we could to discuss changing the youth employment system to improve employment outcomes for marginalised young people.

We were thankful to be joined by young people and key stakeholders from across the sector together with Ministers and Shadow Ministers to share insights, plans and discuss opportunities for the future. In this blog, Ryan Howsham (Senior Policy Manager) and Vicki Jones (Head of Policy – jobshare) reflect on some of the exciting discussions had during the conferences. 

Unlocking the future workforce 

The most recent available data shows that nearly 800,000 young people are not in education, employment or training in the UK – a 23% increase over the last two years. At the same time, there are around one million vacancies across the workforce and many employers report challenges in recruiting the skilled workers they need. Given this challenge, Youth Futures hosted two private roundtables at party conferences, focused on unlocking the future workforce by creating more opportunities for young people. The roundtables brought together MPs, local politicians, sector leaders, employer representatives and young people. They focused on: 

  • Young peoples’ experiences of racial discrimination (Labour): a roundtable shaped by what young people have told us about their experiences of discrimination (including in our soon-to-launch update to our 2022 survey of young people from ethnic minoritised backgrounds). The discussion covered ethnicity pay gap reporting, the need for work experience and better careers advice and a greater focus on tackling structural racial discrimination. 
  • Place-based approaches to narrowing employment gaps (Conservative): bringing to life inter and intra-regional disparities in youth employment and the place-based action needed to get more young people into work. As part of our Connected Futures programme and beyond, we are continuing to lead the way in understanding and investing in place-based approaches to unlocking our future workforce by helping more young people – especially the most marginalised – get into good work. 

The benefits of apprenticeships 

At each party conference we hosted a joint panel with UCAS, focusing on removing barriers to apprenticeships for young people. We were delighted to be joined on the panels by the Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP (Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education) and Seema Malhotra MP (Shadow Minister for Skills) at the Conservative and Labour events respectively, alongside young people and employers, all shining a light on the key opportunities and challenges facing would-be apprentices. 

The panels provided an opportunity to explore findings from the Youth Employment Toolkit which highlight the high positive impact of apprenticeships on youth employment outcomes: for every 10 young people who take part in an apprenticeship, one will get a job who wouldn’t have done so without the apprenticeship.  

The Young Person’s Guarantee 

We also co-hosted two Youth Employment Group receptions, launching the Young Person’s Guarantee to packed rooms at both party conferences. The policy paper brings forward recommendations to bring us closer to a joint commitment: that within four months of leaving employment or education, all young people aged under 25 will receive support to access employment, training, or education opportunities. It was fantastic to be joined by Mims Davies MP (Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression) and Alison McGovern MP (Shadow Minister for Employment) at the Conservative and Labour events respectively, who shared their insights and reflections on the policy ideas in the Guarantee. 

Raising awareness of our evidence on what works in youth employment 

Finally, Youth Futures’ CEO Barry appeared on a range of panels and roundtables across the two conferences, sharing our insights gathered as the What Works Centre for youth employment, including: 

  • Can the UK do better to prepare young people for their working lives – Hosted by Scouts and Prince’s Trust  
  • More than a home: how can housing and public services be joined up to improve outcomes for children, young people and families? – Hosted by Demos and Grosvenor Hart Homes 
  • Skills and Social Mobility: How Can Education, Communities and Industry Secure a Brighter, More Prosperous Future for Young People? – Hosted by New Statesman and PWC 
  • Skills for the future: spreading prosperity, driving growth – Hosted by Reform thinktank with Siobhan Baillie MP, Chair of the Future of Employability APPG 
  • Future Skills and Jobs Roundtable – Hosted by Conservative Home with Pearson  
  • People and Places – Is wage inequality holding back the levelling up agenda? – Hosted by Onward and the Living Wage Foundation 

We’re looking forward to building on the conversations at the party conferences to continue to help more young people to overcome the barriers to good work. 

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