An evaluation of the Young & Successful programme
- Whilst the issue of long term employment and its negative impact on the economy and society is well documented, it is evident that the precise nature of the interventions required to support young people into employment are still emerging.
- This evaluation report has been designed to illustrate the nature of interventions that work effectively to support young people furthest from the labour market into secure employment.
- The evaluation is based on the ‘Young and Successful’ (YaS) project which was a five year youth unemployment initiative operating over the period 2014-2018. Funded by the Big Lottery Fund Talent Match programme, the project had the freedom to work against a ‘test and learn’ ethos to help evolve effective interventions to get young people into employment.
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The key evaluation findings can be summarised as follows:
- From the outset of the project, research into the needs of young people indicated the need for a YaS service model underpinned by six core principles which include:
YaS project data has been used to refine Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943, 1954) to help express the journey young people undertake through the project.
- Young people must be meeting their basic life needs for food and shelter before they are ready to fully engage with projects devised to develop their employability.
- Projects like Young and Successful provide a place for young people to ‘belong’ at a time of life transition between education and employment.
- Young people securing their first ever job experience a ‘glimpse at self-actualisation’ as they realise employment is an attainable lifestyle.
Project data has also been used to assess the employability (or distance from labour market) of young people on the project.
- This analysis has revealed that the strongest collective indicators that a young person will secure employment are; good levels of confidence, good levels of mental health and if they have ever worked before.
- The strongest single indicator that a young person will secure employment is if they have ever worked before.
- Young people accessing the project do not typically have well developed skills to navigate the jobs market. This concern is compounded when young people lack a wider network of family or friends with a good understanding of what it takes to be employable.
- Young people accessing the project are often trapped in a cycle of declining confidence and mental health associated with unsuccessful job applications. If these issues are left unaddressed, young people may begin to believe that employment is an unattainable lifestyle.
- Over the course of delivering the project, these issues have demonstrated the need for a mentor-based model designed to build the confidence and self-worth of young people whilst addressing their individual barriers to employment.
Project data has also been used to analyse the diversity of demand placed on the YaS service in terms of the number of days young people have spent on the project before they secure a job outcome.
- This analysis revealed a huge inconsistency in the amount of time taken to secure a job outcome, ranging from 3 days to 964 days.
- Through the process of grouping young people into five segments, dependent on their length of time on the project, it is possible to see the diversity of costs running through an employability project designed to support young people into employment.
- The easiest to help group took on average 39 days to secure employment. This group attracts an indicative cost of £2,536 per job outcome. The hardest to help group took on average 538 days to secure employment with an indicative cost of £35,086 per job outcome.
- These findings may help to explain the underlying ‘parking and creaming’ motivations of providers working within payment by results (PBR) regimes as utilised in large-scale employability initiatives like the Work Programme.
- This evidence would suggest the very real danger that PBR contracts may actually be working as a catalyst to reinforce existing disadvantage and inequality in the provision of welfare to work services.
- Whilst a £35,086 cost per job outcome would seem to be relatively expensive, this evaluation would advocate that further research and policy debate is undertaken to understand the wider system costs of not getting more young people into a lifestyle of employment.
- When the annual costs of keeping a young person in the prison system accrues to £34,480, (Source NEF unit cost database, 2015) it is not difficult to understand some of the wider systemic costs that are waiting to be incurred if effective employability provision is not available for young people requiring more intensive support. The wider implications of lost national insurance contributions, income tax contributions and increased burdens on wider public services including welfare, healthcare and housing serve to emphasise this point.
The evidence presented in this report would indicate that young people furthest from the labour market respond well to a mentor-based approach, underpinned by a holistic person-centred ethos. This represents an ethos which seeks to understand the individual needs and barriers facing each young person and crucially seeks to build the trust and rapport necessary to support progression.
This approach moves away from an advisor based model, which has historically mandated young people to undertake specific courses of action, based on underlying assumptions about the generic needs of all young people seeking to enter the labour market. Projects like Young and Successful illustrate that there is much more that could be done to help future generations in making the essential life transition into employment.
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