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For many young people the education system works perfectly for their needs, providing them with a solid grounding on which to embark on a successful future.

However, for those who do not necessarily fit this mould, it can be a daunting and unhelpful period in a young person’s life, causing them to leave education with few qualifications and little or no experience of the workplace.

To ensure that no young person is left behind, specialist funding should be made available to schools to target marginalised groups, such as those with poor engagement in school and those at risk of leaving with no qualifications, to raise their attainment levels and give them equal opportunities to succeed. However, the continued push for academic improvement needs to be set against the general wellbeing of young people to ensure they do not face undue stress and pressure.

Young people and employers frequently report a generation ill-equipped for the transition into independence and employment. As such, it is also important that in the drive to improve academic attainment, the broader skills young people need to succeed are not forgotten.

Regardless of ability and qualifications, it is difficult to make the right educational and career choices without being fully informed of the raft of options available. Despite this, the quality of careers information, advice and guidance has traditionally been patchy at best.

While improvements have been made, there is evidence to suggest it is not being treated as a specialist service and is being delivered by teachers rather than professional advisors.

As such, young people are not being made aware of the different pathways available, especially vocational training and apprenticeships. The inclusion of employers and businesses in the classroom and introducing work experience as a compulsory element of secondary school education would also aid the widening of a young person’s level of understanding prior to making decisions about their future.

The previous government’s attempts to increase the number of people undertaking apprenticeships is welcome. However it is important that quality is not sacrificed.

YMCA research has found that the study element of an apprenticeship has been side-lined and that being able to maintain participation on an apprenticeship on low levels of income is challenging.

At the heart of YMCA’s beliefs is that young people should always have the opportunity to better themselves. However despite having the opportunities in front of them, for some young people the traditional journey through the education system can be disrupted by having to deal with difficult personal circumstances that prohibit them from progressing the first time around.

It is for these young people that accessing training and education at a later stage is vital. However, a barrier to this is the removal of entitlement to full-time education for those over 19-years-old.

When struggling to find employment, young people will naturally reach out to the job centre for support. However, they have told us that Jobcentre Plus is merely dehumanising many of those who access its services, damaging their confidence and in some cases even setting back their journey into employment. For this reason, the next government should replace it with a system designed to support the complexities of a young person’s early career, bringing together a range of local organisations, who would be ideally placed to help them find meaningful employment. Finally, many of the job opportunities currently available can be limited and a young person can quickly find themselves in a succession of short-term, part time, zero-hour contract based jobs with periods in and out of benefits. The next government needs to examine ways to ensure the employment opportunities available to young people are meaningful and protect their rights.


  • Ensure all students in school or college have access to careers information, advice and guidance delivered by professional advisors
  • Develop a non-formal Skills for Life curriculum to sit alongside the school’s formal academic curriculum
  • Extend the upper age limit for funding of education and training from 19 to 21-years-old
  • Guarantee all students in Years 10 and 11 have access to at least three weeks of meaningful workplace experience
  • Embed designated and structured study time within all apprenticeships
  • Provide free or heavily discounted travel to those studying on an apprenticeship or participating on a Jobcentre Plus assigned training course
  • Replace Jobcentre Plus with a Youth Transitions Service giving young people access to tailored support to find meaningful and sustained employment
  • Provide schools with specialist funding to target those pupils who are marginalised from mainstream education
  • Protect the employment rights of young people entering the workforce
  • Offer more support within schools for young people suffering with exam stress