Fund ‘civic army’ to tackle youth unemployment, charity bosses tell government

75,000 paid placements are needed to support young people who face a dire labour market this autumn

A coalition of charity leaders have called for a government-funded placement programme to tackle youth unemployment, as they warn that disadvantaged young people face economic hardship “not seen in peacetime”.

In an open letter to the department of education (DfE), eight youth organisations today urged ministers to fund a multi-million-pound project to give under-25s access to paid placements this autumn and winter.

The director of the UPP Foundation described the idea as “a civic army”, capable of helping hard-hit communities and tackling youth unemployment.

An accompanying report authored by the UPP Foundation warned that young people could face a perfect storm later this year as apprenticeships vanish and employment opportunities dry up.

Seventy-five thousand paid placements will be needed at a cost of £500 million, the charity leaders estimate.

The sixth-month placements would provide employment opportunities to students, graduates and college-leavers during the lean winter months. A range of full- and part-time roles would support both those who have left education and can’t find employment and those still in higher education who work to help fund their studies.

Whether it is unemployment or disruption to education, it is becoming increasingly clear that the effects of Covid means young people are faced with an unprecedented combination of challenges that will continue even after schools, colleges and universities reopen– Richard Brabner, UPP Foundation

The report that outlines the community leadership academy scheme has been sent to education secretary Gavin Williamson and universities minister Michelle Donelan.

It proposes that the roles be created in partnerships with universities, charities, local government and social enterprises, who would employ young people for six months to carry out civic work, while giving them 20% off-the job support for their own development, much like an apprenticeship.

The charity bosses say those who previously were in receipt of student premium funding should be given priority under the youth unemployment scheme.

The letter’s signatories – which include Ark, the Access Project, Bridge Group, Brightside, IntoUniversity, and the Centre for Education and Youth – have also called for additional pupil premium funding for young people, greater university support for disadvantaged students and virtual open days. 

The plans were drawn up during a session attended by representatives from the Sutton Trust, Newcastle University, Nottingham Trent University, King’s College London and Teach First.

Richard Brabner, director of the UPP Foundation, said: The UPP Foundation was set up to ensure there is greater equity in going to, succeeding at and benefiting from the university experience. But whether it is unemployment or disruption to education, it is becoming increasingly clear that the effects of Covid means young people are faced with an unprecedented combination of challenges that will continue even after schools, colleges and universities reopen.”

He suggested that government should seize upon “renewed civic action inspired by this crisis” and fund “a civic army” to support their local areas and ‘level up’ opportunities.

In a separate report released today, researchers from the London School of Economics warned that young Britons under the age of 25 – a group the report has labelled the ‘Covid generation’ – face declining social mobility. The report was co-authored by social mobility expert Prof Lee Elliot Major who suggests ministers prepare a job guarantee scheme for those facing long-term unemployment.

The researchers also proposed plans for a national tutoring service, staffed by undergraduates, to offer catch-up sessions for disadvantaged pupils. Prof Major also said Ucas should introduce random allocation for  university admissions, where candidates have met a threshold of selection criteria.


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Read more: Widening participation: Russell Group report calls for drive to tackle inequality in higher education

 

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