Spotlight on 16-year-olds as NEETs rise and level 2 apprenticeships fall

A sharp fall in the number of 16-year-olds taking up level two apprenticeships is being blamed for a startling rise in people of that age who are not in education, employment or training.

Provisional ‘participation’ figures for the year ending 2017 released by the Department for Education this morning show that the proportion of 16-year-olds that are NEET has risen (0.7 percentage points to 3.9 per cent) for the first time since the end of 2011.

It is also the first increase in this group since the government’s Raising of the Participation Age policy came into force – which means that all young people must continue in education or training to 17 from 2013 and to 18 from 2015.

The rise would appear to be directly related to the number of 16-year-olds participating in level two apprenticeships.

There were two per cent fewer 16-year-olds overall in England, but the fall in apprenticeship participation was far greater at nearly 12 per cent, from 23,700 to 20,900, of which it was an 18 per cent fall at level two (from 18,100 to 14,900).

In terms of the age 16 NEET cohort, this rose a massive 20 percent, from 19,500 to 23,400.

When FE Week showed the dramatic fall in 16-year-old apprenticeships and rise in NEETs to the AELP, its chief executive Mark Dawe said: “Once again we predicted this would happen when the government announced that we would move to the same funding rate for all ages.

“We also said that that £1,000 employer incentive for 16-18 year olds across the length of an entire programme would be insufficient for many sectors.

“The minister acknowledged at the AELP conference on Monday that Brexit has to be a consideration in the government’s thinking and sectors like care, hospitality and retail are going to be badly affected unless the entire funding system for 16- to- 24-year-old apprentices is reviewed immediately.

“The lack of action also totally undermines the government’s claims to be serious about social mobility.”

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said the news was “disappointing”.

“It is disappointing to see a rise in the proportion of 16-year-old NEETs. Our research shows that young people spending a longer time NEET account for a higher proportion of the NEET figures, with particularly shocking outcomes for groups such as care leavers. We need action to make sure these figures are a one-off and not the beginning of a trend.”

He added that the fall in apprenticeship take up among 16-year-olds is “also troubling given that far fewer young people in the UK are undertaking an apprenticeship than in other countries.

“We must do better if we are to ensure that today’s young people have a strong foundation of skills and experience on which to build rewarding careers.”

A DfE spokesperson said: Today’s data shows that the proportion of 16-17 year olds in education and apprenticeships has remained relatively stable and is now at the highest level since consistent records began.

“We have put in place a comprehensive programme of reforms, both pre- and post-16, to improve the quality of young people’s education and support them to participate.”

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  1. This generation of young people have been guinea pigs in a failed careers experiment in England. The role of professionally trained careers advisers has continuously been overlooked and undervalued by policymakers – something has to change. The idea of simply leaving schools, colleges, employers and volunteers to provide careers advice to all young people is flawed. The results above show many young people are being failed by the current careers provision arrangements. Brexit and skills shortages are a ‘no brainer’.

  2. As a local provider of NEET initiatives and Apprenticeships it has been evident for some time that the gaps in the opportunities for the more disadvantaged are constantly widening. There are a number of reasons, but over the last 6 years the following impact on the offer to these groups:
    – NEET initiatives have gradually reduced in line with austerity measures by local authorities and reduction in ESF funding;
    – the funding rule that require 19-24 year olds to have an EHC Plan to be eligible for funded learning has been a problem because these plans are very difficult to get and Local Authorities extremely cautious in agreeing plans because of the liability created to finance them (frankly a problem that can be traced back to the LSC funding of statements, which were also an ever increasing financial burden ergo the costs for these arrangements has never been recognised and left to the system to manage the ever decreasing funding);
    – The current Apprenticeship reforms are not supporting SMEs engagement and it is this group of employers who; in our area; are the best prospect for Level 2 Apprenticeships and more altruistic in ‘giving the applicant a chance’.
    The above are some of the causes that contribute to the reduction. It has long been the case that Government needs to partner employers and Local Authorities to ensure that the L2 stepping stone is available to the most disadvantaged and that partnership has a much reduced overlap of interests to address the problem. The stepping stone is dangerously crumbled, leaving little opportunity to move up.