Youth Futures Foundation exists to ensure that more young people facing disadvantages can find and sustain meaningful employment. To do this, we need to know what works, so that we can make sure that funders support the most effective programmes, and that providers and employers are offering support that is most likely to lead to real outcomes for young people.

What research evidence is available on helping young people facing barriers to employment? 

We have started to compile some research evidence which we think is useful for those working to improve the employment outcomes of young people. It includes some key evidence reviews, as well as toolkits and resources based on available evidence.

If you have suggestions of further resources you think we should include, please get in touch.

Youth Futures Foundation reports and research

Youth Employment Covid-19 Response (2020)  Youth Futures Foundation, Institute for Employment Studies, Impetus, Princes Trust, YEUK

This paper sets out a clear set of evidence and practice based policy recommendations for supporting young people into work in the era of Covid-19, building on strong evidence from past recessions of what works and delivers the best long-term value. It highlights the need to mobilise employers, social sector organisations, and, crucially, young people themselves in this national effort to build a futureproof workforce.

Help Wanted: Getting Britain Back To Work (2020) Institute for Employment Studies, Learning and Work Institute, Youth Futures Foundation, Reform, Impetus, the Association of Colleges, the Employment Related Services Association, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and the Institute for Employability Professionals.

This paper sets out evidence and practice based proposals for the employment and labour market response to the Covid19 crisis. It includes a call for all young people leaving education in 2020 to be guaranteed support to find work or a place in education or training through intensive employment support, underpinned by a Jobs Guarantee for those out-of-work for the longest. It also highlights the importance of planning now to level up access to well paid, high quality work based on understanding the future of the labour market.

Supporting disadvantaged young people into meaningful work: An initial evidence review to identify what works and inform good practice among practitioners and employers  (2020) Institute for Employment Studies for Youth Futures Foundation.

This initial evidence review aims to assist the Youth Futures Foundation to understand the existing, high quality evidence base about what works (and does not work) for these young people. The focus on high quality evidence meant that impact assessments were prioritised.

Young, vulnerable, and increasing – why we need to start worrying more about youth unemployment  (2020) Youth Futures Foundation and Impetus.

The Youth Futures Foundation and Impetus have worked in partnership on a new analysis of the population of young people who are neither earning nor learning – looking at both the current drivers of, and future trends associated with, being in this group. 

Evidence reviews and maps

Interventions to improve the labour market outcomes of youth: a systematic review of training, entrepreneurship promotion, employment services and subsidized employment interventions (2017). Campbell Collaboration and International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie).

This systematic review assesses the impact of youth employment interventions on the labour market outcomes of young people. The included interventions and training and skills development, entrepreneurship promotion, employment services and subsidised employment. Outcomes of interest include employment, earnings and business performance outcomes.

Youth Employment Evidence Gap Map (2017) International Labour Organization (ILO).

This Evidence Gap Map has been produced by the International Labour Organization. This gap map is based on a systematic review supported by 3ie.

Do Youth Employment Programs Improve Labor Market Outcomes? A Systematic Review (2016) IZA.

This study reviews the evidence on the impact of youth employment programs on labor market outcomes. The analysis looks at the effectiveness of various interventions and the factors that influence program performance including country context, targeted beneficiaries, program design and implementation and type of evaluation.

Evidence Review 1: Employment Training (2016) What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth.

This report presents findings from a systematic review of evaluations of training programmes aimed at improving adult skills and labour market outcomes.

Youth Unemployment: Review of Training for Young People with Low Qualifications (2013) Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (for Department for Business, Innovation and Skills).

The paper seeks to set out what lessons could be learnt from previous programmes, and makes recommendations on the design of any future training programme for low-skilled and out-of-work young people aged 19-24.

What works for whom? A review of evidence and meta-analysis for the Department for Work and Pensions (2007) Warwick Institute for Employment Research on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

The review collated and synthesised evidence drawn from both published and in-house research from DWP and Jobcentre Plus on interventions such as New Deal for Young People, Disabled People and Lone Parents.

Evidence-based toolkits or resources

Youth Hubs – what works?

With the introduction of plans to create Youth Hubs, we have produced a paper providing a high-level summary of the evidence on co-located employment services. It identifies the critical elements to consider in designing and establishing a successful Youth Hub to ensure young people receive the best possible support to move into meaningful work.

For a quick guide to getting started, see our interactive ‘cheat sheet’ which plots the key elements needed for effective design and delivery with signposts to more information and examples of programmes with successful outcomes. You can also download our pdf version which will print to A3 making it a handy poster size for reference and to share with your team.

Employment Training Toolkit (2016) What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth.

We have developed a set of policy design guides to help you to make informed decisions when developing employment training policy.

Journey to Employment Framework (2013) NPC.

The JET framework is designed to help charities think through how their work contributes to young people’s employability, and plan approaches to evaluation. Based on evidence from the literature and insights from consultation with experts, we have identified seven groups of factors that contribute to successful job outcomes for young people.

Ready for Work (2014) Impetus, The Young Foundation, Dartington Service Design Lab

This report sets out the findings of a research project that seeks to answer the questions: what do young people need to be ready for work? And what makes the biggest difference to their work readiness?

Other research or data analysis

Establishing the Employment Gap (2019) Impetus with NIESR.

This report is the first in a series, outlining new findings about 18-24 year old NEETs in England. The Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) dataset that we’ve used allows more detailed investigation into how things differ for young people based on whether they are from a disadvantaged background, their qualifications, and where they live.

Young People’s Future Health Inquiry: The quality of work on offer to young people and how it supports the building blocks for a healthy life (2019) Institute for Employment Studies, for the Health Foundation.

This research report seeks to provide an evidence base for how changes in young people’s experiences of employment could have a strong bearing on future health outcomes. It explores the employment opportunities and working conditions for young people today, how these vary by area and by personal characteristics, and how they have changed over the past 20 years.

Interventions supporting Ethnic Minority labour market participation: Part one (2019) Department for Work and Pensions and Race Disparity Unit

This research looks at interventions supporting ethnic minority labour market participation in 22 Jobcentre Plus areas.

Characteristics of young people who are long-term NEET (2018) Department for Education

This report includes analysis of the characteristics of young people who were not in education, employment or training (NEET) for a year, three years after completing key stage 4 in the 2010 to 2011 academic year.

Ethnicity, poverty and youth employment: improving outcomes for young people (2015) Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Young people from ethnic minorities are disadvantaged in the labour market. This Solutions paper examines mainstream initiatives that have supported young people’s transitions into work, and sets out recommendations for improving support, offering a more effective route out of poverty.

What research evidence is most robust?

The most robust impact evaluations of specific programmes are those that try to compare outcomes for young people who have been supported, with a similar group of potential beneficiaries. For example, participants may have been randomised to either participate in the programme or not (an experimental study), and we can assume that the participants and comparison group are broadly similar. Other methods include identifying a statistically similar group of non-participants (quasi-experimental studies).

These impact evaluations allow us to estimate what would have happened without the programme. How well they do this varies – not all impact evaluations are equal. For example, they may vary in terms of how well the intended outcome was measured, or the level of similarity between the two groups.

The best evaluations would combine the statistical analysis of the outcomes with a process evaluation looking at the implementation of the programme. These can be undertaken without estimating the impact, and can be very useful for learning about the active ingredients and challenges of programme delivery.

Individual studies can only tell you so much. The best evidence comes from evidence reviews that look across a range of evaluations on a particular intervention or outcome. Again, these can vary in their quality and rigour. The best guidance and toolkits are those that seek to condense high quality research findings into practical recommendations.

Other evidence is useful for generating information that is not about understanding the impact of initiatives on outcomes. For example, about the needs facing young people, or policies affecting their lives.



The Spending Review is a missed opportunity to support young people into jobs and invest for the future.


Chris Goulden comments on how the rise in the number of young people staying in full-time education pushing down NEET numbers.


Youth Futures Foundation and BBC Children in Need announce the grant recipients of the £7 millon Inspiring Futures fund.


Deuvaunn Darroux joins the Youth Futures Foundation as Strategy Officer Apprentice.


Director of Impact and Evidence, Chris Goulden, reports back from the ERSA Kickstart Forum


Jason Arthur joins Youth Futures Foundation as Director of Strategy and Innovation.


New Heads of Grants Dilys Winterkorn and Lekan Ojumu join Director Matthew Poole (pictured centre) in the Grants and Investment team.