Can Experiential Learning Help Combat Youth Unemployment?


26th of October, 2011 Bookmark and Share
Young people are facing the greatest challenge trying to enter the labour market and get a job in nearly 20 years. Unemployment in Britain has jumped to its highest level since 1994, with young people being hit the hardest.

Youth unemployment has risen to 991,000, the highest since records began in 1992, driving the jobless rate among 16 to 24-year-olds to 21.3 per cent (Reuters 12th October 2011). In the three months to August 2011, unemployment among young people increased by 74,000, from the three months to May 2011 (Office for National Statistics October 2011). Record youth unemployment is set to rise even further this Autumn, according to a survey of the UK’s 27 largest companies (BBC Newsbeat 17th October 2011).

Young people living in London are among those facing the toughest challenge. Across the UK the unemployment rate for people aged 16 and over now stands at 8.1 per cent. However, unemployment in London is running at 10 per cent. Only the North East has a higher rate of unemployment, at 11.3 per cent (Office for National Statistics October 2011).

According to international data, published in September 2011, (OECD’s Report – Education at a Glance) more teenagers in Britain are out of work and without a college place than in most other developed nations. Figures show that school-leavers are more likely to be classed as “NEET” – not in education, employment or training – than in countries such as Estonia, Portugal, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia.

A charity based in London, Business and Education London South (BELS), which works with disadvantaged young people, particularly those who are NEET, believes the reasons for the disproportionate share of the burden of unemployment falling on young people are clearly multifaceted. However, Michael Manning-Prior, BELS’ Chief Executive, says: “A recurring theme impacting on the work readiness of the young people we support revolves round motivation, attitude and self-confidence. Many have found school an un-engaging experience and this places further barriers on their ability to interact with the labour market. While the current UK and international economic climate is driving up unemployment, it is possible to mitigate the adverse effect on young people.”

Sue Murkin, Senior Manager in charge of Training and Employability for young people at BELS, says: “We have found that “hands on’ experiential learning, revolving around community work based tasks and challenges, can have a significant impact, resulting in life changing benefits and worthwhile employment.”

BELS runs personal development and pre-employment programmes enabling young people to improve their educational achievements and employability skills while encouraging them to take control of their future.

According to Manning-Prior: “Urgent and concerted action is needed to tackle this problem. Working with partners across South London we are currently putting in place plans to extend our programme of task orientated learning and pilot new radical approaches to engage and support the jobless young. We are particularly interested in talking to investors to explore new social investment models to support grass roots action in the community.”
Michael Manning-Prior
Business & Education London South (BELS) is a registered charity based in Croydon, working with young people and with businesses, educational establishments and voluntary organisations across London, supporting young people as they prepare for adult and working life.