As of last November, there were approximately 790,000 people aged between 17 and 24 who were not in education, employment or training. It is easy to dismiss these young people as lazy slackers who don’t want to work or snowflakes who can’t handle the challenges of education or employment, but to do so would be to do them a great disservice.
Most young people do want to better themselves, and they are more than willing to work, but there are simply not enough opportunities available to them, especially when it comes to education. Sure, more young people than ever are going to university, but that itself is part of the problem, and those kids for whom university isn’t an option are often left struggling to find an alternative. So what’s the answer?
More Vocational Courses for 14-to-16-Year-Olds
Instead of forcing 14-to-16-year-olds to go down the academic route regardless of how likely they are to attain qualifications, more schools should be willing to partner up with local colleges and offer more vocational courses for those young people who aren’t academic but do have a lot to offer. Too many of them are stuck in classes trying to learn things that don’t interest them and for which they have no aptitude, when they could be learning practical skills that will enable them to transition into work as soon as they leave school — instead of struggling to even find a minimum wage job in a local shop.
The government have spent a lot of time talking about the benefits of apprenticeships for those young people whose skills are of a more practical nature than an academic one, and for those kids who need to start bringing some money in as soon as possible. But there are still too few apprenticeships to go around — 491,300 in total last year. Not only that, but many of the apprenticeships available are little more than an excuse for companies to employ young people at a subsidised rate (apprentice sandwich artist at Subway anyone?) and they do not give young people the skills and opportunities that they deserve; the ones that will enable them to make a good living in the future.
As we move forward and technology plays a bigger part in our lives, it would be sensible for the government to look more seriously at online learning options, so that those young people who perhaps need to stay at home and work can still get a better standard of education. Young people should be able to log on and get a degree in business, a masters in education online or a degree in physics for much less than they can on campus, and they should be able to fit it around other commitments.
The government should be looking to abolish the majority of unpaid internships so that more young people can afford to take up the opportunities available to them that are currently only available to well-off kids with families who can support them.
Of course, it’s unlikely to be quite this simple, and perhaps a major overhaul of education in this country is needed, but by widening the education options available to our young people, we can start to help more of them into meaningful work.