A Closer Look

UK / Youth unemployment and the growing failure of education

Unemployment is up by 0.2 per cent to 7.9 per cent. Long term unemployment is on the rise. Youth unemployment is up again, this time by 20,000. Any semblance of a jobs recovery is only visible in low wage sectors feeding into a clear wage squeeze, with the slowest growth in earnings since 2009.

A dire picture then, but hidden within these statistics is particularly troubling trend – the growing failure of education, from apprenticeships to graduate degrees, to act as a stepping stone into meaningful employment.

While youth unemployment gains considerable media attention in the UK the plight of study leavers – ranging in age – is virtually ignored. The typical policy response to unemployment is for people to ‘up-skill’ – to educate themselves so that they are better placed to find work. If study leavers are, in fact, not being rewarded on entering the labour market, this seriously undermines government rhetoric and puts the onus on labour demand rather than labour supply to change.

In a recent nef report commissioned by the National Union of Students (NUS) we found that:

While more people are taking up undergraduate degrees and other qualifications, in particular apprenticeships, unemployment and under-employment is increasing. For example the unemployment rate for recent graduates is 20 per cent and nearly one in three recent graduates are employed in a lower skilled job. Rather than a ‘skills deficit’ there appears to be an emerging ‘job quality deficit.’

There have been over 500,000 apprenticeship starts in England alone in 2011/2012 – an increase often celebrated by the Coalition government. However, given serious questions raised by Ofsted around the quality of training, suggestions that these positions are actually displacing jobs, and the growing levels of unemployment for those finishing apprenticeships, this increase is perhaps not something to be applauded. It is worth noting too that the majority of new apprenticeships are in low waged service sectors rather than better paid construction or engineering sectors.

There is clear inequality in employment outcomes between graduates, for example, Russell Group university graduates are far more likely to earn above £30,000 several years after graduation than other graduates.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor

Capture d’écran 2013-04-19 à 09.42.47

via Faiza Shaheen – Youth unemployment verging on 1m – but this is just the tip of the iceberg | the new economics foundation.


8 thoughts on “UK / Youth unemployment and the growing failure of education

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your statement regarding the plight of graduates. I graduated two years ago from the University of Liverpool, a Russell Group university, and I have struggled a great deal to start a career in my desired subject area. One of the main issues that I have encountered since graduating is that I do not have the relevant skills and experience to fulfill an entry level role. Employers appear to be extremely cautious to invest their resources in graduates, and view it as “risky” when appointing a graduate within their company. And to an extent, I can understand why they would be cautious to employ a graduate that doesn’t have the specified level of experience to perform in the job. And with approximately 70 graduates (on average) applying to each entry level role in the UK, to say the graduate job market is competitive would be an understatement.

    Posted by Inspector Graduate | May 12, 2013, 5:33 pm


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