Why Work Experience Matters for NEET Youth

Why work experience matters to young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) 

We know there is a scarring effect of unemployment; young people with a history of unemployment face long-term consequences such as lower wages and fewer career prospects, all of which can have a profound and damaging effect on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.  

Recent research continues to shine a spotlight on the mental health crisis in young people, showing an increase in mental health conditions and low self-confidence are key factors preventing a rising number of young people from entering employment, all compounded by the pandemic and its aftermath, which continues to be felt by this group.   

The Prince’s Trust NatWest Youth Index 2023 reported similar findings. It revealed young people’s overall happiness and confidence remain at an all-time low as the pressures of a cost-of-living crisis weigh heavily on their minds. It also revealed that one in four young people feel like they are going to fail in life, rising to 35% among NEET young people and 36% among those from poorer backgrounds. 

Clearly, young people are facing significant challenges. 

How can work experience help a young person who is NEET? 

Crucially, a work placement provides an opportunity for young people to gain experience of the workplace, develop their skills and build their confidence in a safe and supportive environment while also deciding if a particular role, organisation or sector is right for them, without committing to a permanent position. 

One young person who completed work experience with BAE Systems said: “The programme gave me the confidence to showcase my talent, build new skills and develop my self-worth. It changed my life.” 

How can work experience benefit businesses? 

A work experience programme can help businesses tap into a more sustainable pipeline of young talent reflective of our society, helping to address key skills gaps and create a more inclusive and diverse workplace fit for the future, therefore driving competitive advantage.  

This is demonstrated by a recent research commissioned with Oxford Insights based on the delivery of Movement to Work programmes at Marks & Spencer in 2022. This found that 93% of participants were employed by the company on completion of their programme, with 49% being female, nearly a quarter were from ethnic minority backgrounds, and 31% disclosed having a disability. 

The opportunity for employees to mentor young people who come into their business also helps to contribute to job satisfaction and provides valuable development opportunities. 

The young person quoted above is still employed by BAE Systems nine years after completing her programme. She is an excellent example of employee loyalty, reduced hiring costs and higher retention rates which make a compelling business case for running work experience and employability programmes. 

Why is this support for young people so important?  

Put simply, young people are our future – our future workforce and our future leaders. The more we invest in them, the more we secure the wellbeing of future generations.  

ONS data released in May 2023 reveals the number of young people not in employment, education or training is approximately 770,000 – equating to an estimated 11.3% of all people aged 16 to 24 years in the UK. Further data released in August 2023 shows that unemployment in young people aged 16 to 24 rose by 41,000 (Jan – June 2023), an increase of 95,000 from this time last year. Moreover, youth unemployment remains nearly three times the national average, while open vacancies continue to fall. Quite a stark picture.  

What is Movement to Work, and who do we help? 

At Movement to Work, our mission is simple – we want to help young people, who face barriers to employment, gain access to great work experiences. 

We believe that at some point in our lives, we are all reliant on being presented with an opportunity and seek to create opportunities which help break the vicious ‘no experience – no job’ cycle that is preventing so many young people from entering into employment.  

We do this by working with employers across a wide range of sectors – from retail and hospitality to tech and engineering – to design and implement work placements, vocational training and employability programmes for young people aged 16-30 who are not in employment, education or training. 

Working with our employer and partner network, since Movement to Work was formed in 2013, we have collectively delivered more than 155,000 opportunities, with more than 89%* of young people going on to secure employment or go on to further education and training. 

However, there is still much work to be done, particularly for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and underrepresented groups, to help them prepare for and access the world of work.  

To find out more about Movement to Work, please visit https://movementtowork.com/.  

Gillian Churchill, CEO of Movement to Work