On Thursday 11th April, the British Youth Council launched the Work Experience Action Group in a bid to combat unequal access to work experience. The new focus group, which is made possible by a grant from the People’s Postcode Trust, will work to improve access to quality work experience and careers advice across England.
The pioneering group is made up of young people aged of 16 – 25 who will be constructing toolkits for young people and employers across the UK with support from The Careers & Enterprise Company. These toolkits will be distributed amongst Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and young people’s hubs outlining what quality work experience looks like and how to make it accessible to young people.
The project has been established following the Youth Select Committee’s inquiry into access to work experience last year. The committee of young people found there were a multitude of inequalities that affected young people’s access to good quality work experience across the UK. It also concluded young people from a rural area or from a low socio-economic background are amongst those that were facing a disproportionate lack of access. Employers from SMEs also expressed how they are willing to give good quality work experience but find that they are lacking the comprehension to construct an accessible environment to support all young people.
Commenting on the action group, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council, said: “Last year the Youth Select Committee found unacceptable levels of inequality were affecting young people’s access to good quality work experience across the UK.
“The Work Experience Action Group will now work to develop a toolkit which will enable more employers to not only make their work experience placements more accessible but will also ensure they can provide high quality opportunities.”
Claudia Harris, CEO of The Careers & Enterprise Company, who are supporting the project said: “The Youth Select Committee held an impressive inquiry into work experience last year and it’s great that this truly youth-led initiative has followed as a result.
“It will enable many more young people across the country to have greater exposure to their local employers which is crucial in our fast-changing world of work. It’s brilliant to see young people taking the lead in shaping careers support. We look forward to working closely with them throughout the process.”
Creating Work Experience hubs for 11-18 year olds was one of the top issues in the UK Youth Parliament’s 2017 Make Your Mark ballot. The ballot saw almost 950,000 young people vote on issues that mattered most to them.
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee has received an official response from the UK Government on work experience. The response follows an extensive investigation into the barriers faced by young people across the country in accessing quality work experience. The Government have acknowledged its role in ‘preparing students for adult life’ and the importance of work experience but make no concrete commitments to address the concerns highlighted by the committee.
The British Youth Council were disappointed to learn that the response from the Department for Education contained ambiguous answers to many of the recommendations made by the Youth Select Committee. In November 2018, the committee ruled that the Government needed to take action on ‘unequal’ work experience opportunities.
Within the response, which answers each of the recommendations made by the committee, the Government state ‘every pupil should have first-hand experiences of the workplace’. However, the Government refused to make a firm commitment to commission further research on the quality work experience, stating they would only ‘look carefully’ at how they can improve their evidence base.
The Government also recognise more can be done to build on the work so far to encourage businesses of all sizes and across all sectors to offer young people experiences of the workplace. Despite this, the Government give the committee no assurances on how this will be improved.
The committee did welcome the Government’s plan to undertake further work to understand whether there is value in dedicating a section of the National Careers Service website to work experience. We were also pleased to hear the Government intend to involve young people in the design and testing of any new resources and services.
Claudia Quinn, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, from Liverpool said: “The Youth Select Committee were disappointed to learn that the Government accept their role in preparing students for adult life and the importance of work experience but make no concrete commitments to address the concerns highlighted by the committee’s extensive inquiry.
“The Government need to take steps to address the patchy, unequal nature of young people’s access to work experience and this response doesn’t take into account the very real concerns we’ve brought to their attention.
“We were, however, pleased with the Government’s commitment to involve young people in the design and testing of any National Careers Services’ new resources and services. Young people should be consulted on things that impact them and we’re excited to hear the Government have acknowledged this.”
The Youth Select Committee, who were aged 13-18, included Members of the Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors, a Youth Mayor and representatives from each of the devolved nations. This year’s committee will examine different aspects of the widely reported knife crime epidemic.