As an awarding and apprentice assessment organisation, TQUK's a little bit interested in youth skills. Youths tend to make up the vast majority of apprenticeship placements in the UK and internationally, and it is vital to give the necessary skills to young people in order to secure the health of the economy of the future and help them lead fulfilling and productive lives.

So TQUK, on World Youth Skills Day 2017, is joining with many other organisations, including UNESCO, to promote awareness for the need to emphasize the importance of training our young people for the future.


First, there’s some good stuff we should mention.

Overall, youth training and, by extension, employment is rising all over the world, though at a slow and steady pace. And the UK, leaving Brexit and the recent economic performance to the side for a moment, has been performing very well economically over the last few years in comparison to the rest of the developed world.

Further, earlier this year, the reforms of the Conservative government, begun under David Cameron and continued under Theresa May, are a promising start to a long-neglected project of raising the profile and prestige of apprenticeships and vocational education while also increasing our capacity in providing technical skills. The push to create 3 million new apprenticeship starts by 2020 and the imposition of the Apprenticeship Levy on large organisations is going to mean a lot of cash being pumped into vocational training and further education. Many questions about maintaining quality along with the quality of the upcoming apprenticeships, in particular raised by Stephan Evans from Learning and Work, need to be addressed, but these concerns should not put a damper on the spirit of the reforms, which aims to get as many people trained and in work as possible.

Needless to say, with government cash comes legitimacy. By pumping so much into vocational and technical training, the government is not only addressing the skills gaps across the UK. They are raising the profile of technical education, which has often played second fiddle to higher education in universities.

So there are reasons to be optimistic about the general direction of the sector. But there are still some issues that need to be addressed.

The giant elephant in the room when talking about young people, skills and employment is still the financial crash of 2007/8. After the housing market in the United States collapsed, austerity was imposed all over the developed world in order to keep spending under control. This meant that investment was stymied and, as a result, a very large amount of jobs were cut. Future job prospects at the time were grim. Many young university and college graduates left school for a marketplace that, for years, could not accommodate them. The crash not only created a generation of young people stuck in low-paid work. It eliminated a sense of security and certainty in the future that, to this day, has not abated.

The International Labour Organisation says that, today, young people are almost three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and are continuously exposed to lower quality of jobs, greater labour market inequalities and longer and more insecure school-to-work transitions. In addition, women are more likely to be underemployed and under-paid and to undertake part-time jobs or work under temporary contracts.

Education and training are still key determinants of success in the labour market. Unfortunately, existing systems are failing to address the learning needs of many young people.

Unemployment around the world, and in Europe in particular, has been going down steadily since 2012. But, while Europe has remained relatively high in employment, the picture is not the same throughout the continent. The unemployment rate in southern European countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece are far higher than in the northern European countries, like in Germany, Sweden and the UK. But even within the wealthier nations, there is cause for concern. The high employment rate is a slightly misleading as to the health of these economies. Too many of the jobs created in the last few years have been temporary contracts, part-time jobs and zero hour-type positions, many of which are precarious and are often badly paid, or often not paid at all. Many young people, despite receiving qualifications, have had to take such positions in order to survive while they wait for something better. It is now the case that finding a well-paying position with little or no experience is a difficult and drawn-out process often lasting years.

The last decade has changed the attitudes of millennials that endured the crash. There is a widespread sense that the certainty enjoyed by previous generations – job stability and life-long job security – are things of the past, and as a result new ways of imagining working life is necessary in order to survive. However, contrary to their characterisation as a ‘lost generation’, milliennials do not want to wait for their futures: they are willing to take many part-time or temporary positions in order to advance their careers or keep afloat. They are also very  entrepreneurial and more likely to be self-employed or to take freelance positions than previous generations (though not necessarily by choice).

The failure of the economy to deliver on the hopes of the young has also forced even younger people to lose faith in many institutions like government and universities to address their concerns. The number of 16-18 year-olds not in education, employment or training has risen significantly in the past year, statistics show. With Brexit creating an increasing amount of uncertainty along with more than 2 million UK jobs reliant on EU funding the need to create a highly skilled domestic workforce is more imperative than ever, and future government action is going to have to swim against demographic tides like this.

Policies like the Apprenticeship Levy will create the necessary investments in individuals to advance their careers in profitable industries that have been widely neglected. It is also a welcome move to require larger organisations to help foot the bill for training youths. The more educated a workforce, the more productive and wealthy it becomes.

We believe that organisations like TQUK can help where larger institutions, like universities and colleges, have failed. By working with training centres and other educational bodies to provide learning frameworks that ensure a quality education and training program at a reasonable cost, awarding organisations and apprentice training and assessment organisations can help give young people the skills they will need

There is so much potential in the next generation and it only needs to be realised. So today we should shout about the need for vocational education for the young, and recognise the vital role they will play in the future of our economy.

When you invest in people, you’re never disappointed.

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