Report urges employers and schools to back school-to-work agenda as 1 in 3 young people struggle to find jobs

  • A third of young people (32%) aged 16 to 21 in the UK aren’t confident about finding a job in the next few years
  • Young people from lower socio-economic groups most likely to say they don’t think they can find a job where they live (33%)
  • 56% say they can’t get experience of work to land them the job they want
  • 63% say they aspire to lead a team, but only 25% are confident in their management skills

7 September 2016

A third of young people (32%) aged 16 to 21 in the UK aren’t confident about finding a job in the next few years and lack information about local job opportunities (35%), according to a new report published by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and EY Foundation - Age of Uncertainty: Young people’s views on the challenges of getting into work in 21st century Britain.

The report, based on a survey of 1,510 16-to-21-year-olds in the UK conducted by Populus, finds that a lack of connections, a steady decline in school-secured work experience, low self-confidence and an apparent lack of visibility of local employers, all have the potential to impact on young people’s working prospects in the UK. Young people from lower-socio economic groups (DE) are considerably more likely than to say they don’t think that they can get a job locally, compared their peers in higher social groups (AB) (33% compared to 25%).

Employers urged to back school-to-work agenda

CMI and the EY Foundation are calling on employers and schools to back a school-to-work agenda as part of the national curriculum to give young people fairer access to workplace opportunities and to improve their employability on leaving school. The focus for this agenda would be a new syllabus providing every young person in the UK aged 11 to 18 with the right support to ensure they have the best working prospects. Without this intervention, the report suggests that young people’s futures are being put at risk as demand for a high-skilled labour force is set to grow over the next three to five years [identified in the latest annual CBI education and skills survey].

More than one in two (56%) young people said that they think it is difficult to get the experience they need to get a job they want. This could be linked to the fact that work experience is no longer compulsory in school and fewer students now receive it. Just 51% of 16-18-year olds say that their school offers work experience, compared to 64% of those now 19-21. Nine in 10 (88%) of the young people surveyed said that employers should offer young people more experience of work.

According to Louise Coles, aged 18 from the North East, who contributed to the report:

"It’s really hard to get good-quality work experience when you don’t have the connections, and even harder if you don’t know the options available to you. I believe that we need to remove these barriers for all young people. We need more information, more paid work experience and fairer application processes [for work experience]."

Young people aspire to lead

Two in five (40%) of 16-21-year olds aspire to become the boss of a company, 63% would like to lead a team, and 37% would like to start their own business.

However, many young people lack confidence in their leadership and management skills. Only one in four (25%) say they are very good at communicating what they think or taking initiative. Just one in six (15%) say they are very good at talking in front of a group of people or getting people to work together (14%).

But young people say they understand that employers are looking for practical skills, rather than just qualifications. 68% say organisational skills and communication skills (65%) are important for employers, with just 35% citing exam results as being important.

The report’s recommendations include embedding the soft skills that employers seek by including accredited practical management skills in the national curriculum for 11-18-year olds.

Ann Francke, chief executive of CMI, says:

"Young people aspire to become leaders but it’s currently luck of the draw whether they get the necessary chances to learn how. We need employers and educators to help the next generations to develop practical skills from a younger age. This includes making management and leadership skills part of the school curriculum so that employers can recognise their capabilities."

Maryanne Matthews, chief executive of EY Foundation, says:

"What young people are saying loud and clear in this report is that there is a disconnect between having an experience(s) of work and the confidence to get a job, especially if they come from a low-income household. And while we are hearing that many employers, schools and colleges across the country are doing great things and offering inspiring experiences of work, there are still too many young people who are not getting this access – and they are calling for it! We want every young person, in every region across the UK to have the same systematic and high-quality experiences of work with local employers. Greater levels of collaboration are needed to fix this - and that’s what the recommendations in this report are all about."

CBI supports call for a national school-to-work youth panel

One of the key recommendations in the report is to create a national school-to-work youth panel to give young people a strong voice to talk with employers, schools, colleges and government about their needs and concerns around job opportunities and access to career pathways. It would also be a powerful way for young people to make their case at the highest levels for better experiences of work opportunities.

Commenting on this recommendation the CBI’s President Paul Drechsler said:

"Business leaders welcome the value and opportunity to provide high-quality work experience, and we know that it’s important to make it a valuable and positive experience for young people."

"A national youth panel would play a vital role in facilitating young people and businesses working together to provide experience of the world of work in a way that is beneficial to everyone. This aligns with the re-introduction of mandatory work-related experience at Key Stage 4 for maximum impact."

To download a copy of Age of Uncertainty: Young people’s views on the challenges of getting into work in 21st Century Britain visit:

Get involved with the debate @cmi_managers @EY_Foundation #schooltowork

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Notes to editors

About CMI

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About EY Foundation

The EY Foundation is an independent fundraising charity that helps young people who face barriers in the labour market – such as living in a low-income household – to find pathways into work, higher education or self-employment. The charity was founded by EY in July 2014.

At the EY Foundation we want to make a measurable, positive social impact on the work prospects of young people from disadvantaged groups in the UK and act as a bridge for them to local employers. Together with other employer and our growing network of corporate partners, we have helped to benefit hundreds of young people’s working lives by providing skills training, paid work experiences and mentoring in a diverse range of organisations. Find out more at