This report outlines the ways that the council aims to provide young people with the necessary skills and opportunities for sustainable employment.
Correction: Under 3.1 of the report, the national average figure should be 7.1 percent not 3.4 percent as shown in the printed agenda.
Will Parsons (Commissioning and Transformation Lead) presented the report which provided an overview of the current participation rates for young people not in employment, education, or training (NEET), the current NEET panel process, its links with partner organisations involved and referral routes for young people. The report also highlighted the range of opportunities offered through the Virtual School and Workzone that aimed to provide young people with the necessary skills and opportunities for sustainable employment.
The Chair welcomed Hiba Al Moosawi (Youth Mayor) and Cas Bradbeer (Deputy Youth Mayor) to the meeting and asked them to share their experiences and ideas for improving young people’s access to work experience in the borough.
Cas Bradbeer addressed the committee about the obstacles faced when trying to access work experience. Pursuing an interest in social work they enquired about the possibility of doing work experience with social services in the borough but was turned away due to concerns around confidentiality. They persisted and did get to shadow senior social workers in the department, an experience they found to be hugely educational, but they worried that this type of allowance was only given because of personal connections they had made - when these opportunities should be available to everyone. Other members of the Youth Council reported similar issues in other sectors - either no work experience was offered at all or it was very competitive.
Hiba Al Moosawi informed the committee that the topic of work experience was one of her key manifesto pledges – she felt it was important to educate young people about the need for work experience and how to access it. Many young people weren’t aware how important it was for employers and not having it restricted young people’s career opportunities.
Councillor Caroline Ffiske asked when the requirement to be in education, employment or training ended. Ian Heggs (Director for Education) said the requirement was to 18 years old.
Councillor Marcus Ginn asked who was legally responsible for ensuring young people were in education, training, or employment. Ian Heggs responded that it was the local authority’s responsibility to provide young people with support and access to opportunities – though there were no legal consequences.
Matt Jenkins noted that, while it was good that NEET figures in the borough were low, it would be helpful to understand more about the quality of the placements. For example, if a young person was in training, was it useful to them in their future careers or were they simply being used as low-wage labour? He asked what more H&F could do to make high quality work experience opportunities available. Ian Heggs replied by saying the council did provide a work experience service to schools that offered a programme of opportunities. There was also a bespoke work experience package for special schools.
Steve Miley (Director for Family Services), referring to the obstacles around offering work experience due to confidentiality, said his service could set-up conversations for young people with social workers to give them an insight into the job.
Matt Jenkins asked if there were any opportunities for students to pursue their own work experience arrangements. Officers noted that work experience for young people under the age of 16 had to be arranged by a responsible adult. Ian Heggs said the service provided to schools by the council had a huge range of employers (around 1500) and could provide links and advice to young people. The work experience coordinators in schools also often had their own links with local businesses.
Cas Bradbeer said when looking for work experience all the opportunities available were through personal or family connections. They noted that many young people did not have those kinds of connections and were missing out. They asked if there were trusted online resources that young people could use.
Anita Pattani (CfBT) said that type of service, if delivered locally, would needed to be commissioned. There were, however, many reputable voluntary organisations that supported people into work experience – information about them could be provided to the committee after the meeting.
Philippa O’Driscoll noted that, while there were many providers and volunteer organisations in this space, there didn’t seem to be a single gateway to access them. Could the council not provide a ‘shop front’ for these fragmented groups? Ian Heggs reminded the committee that a similar approach had existed before with Connexions but the system changed. Anita Pattani said there was a free national careers helpline (0800 100 900) where you could speak with qualified careers advisors. There was also an accompanying website - ‘nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk’. Philippa O’Driscoll asked how young people were made aware of these resources. Officers said it could be signposted in schools more clearly – the information should be pooled and shared together.
Councillor Sue Fennimore said this had been an area of concern for a while. The Poverty and Worklessness Commission made recommendations around supporting people into work and stemming from that the council had been looking at improving access to work experience, volunteering, and mentoring. She highlighted the supported internship programme for young people with disabilities as an early step towards this - and noted that two of the nine young people had accepted full-time jobs as a result of the programme. The programme would be expanding next year with local businesses coming on board.
Councillor Alan De’Ath asked if funding pressures had led to fewer schools buying in the council’s work experience service (as had happened in the school he worked for). Ian Heggs replied that budgets continued to be strained and it was for schools to set their priorities. Schools were asking for more bespoke offers now and the council was trying to be flexible and respond to their needs.
Nandini Ganesh noted that the supported employment stakeholder network was a very positive development and Parentsactive had contributed a lot toward it. She highlighted the fact that that young people with autism spectrum disorder tended to have very specific interests – particularly in technical areas so would welcome opportunities that recognised that.
Steve Miley drew the committee’s attention to the figures for the looked after children population in the borough – 78 percent were in education, employment or training compared with a national average of just 48 percent. The virtual school team had achieved this through intensive relationship building to build up young people’s confidence.
The Chair summarised that young people would benefit greatly from having the opportunity to speak to people in the field they are interested in – to learn what the job is really like. Mentoring would also be a great way to give young people an insight into potential careers.
Anita Pattani recommended the committee read the report ‘London Ambitions: Shaping a successful careers offer for all young Londoners’, that expanded on many of the points raised at the meeting.
The committee noted the contents of the report.