Problem statement

Effective measures to help NEETs to transition into work require investment in human capital. There is broad consensus in Europe that work-based learning can empower NEETs to move rapidly into work, as it can help them to gain a multitude of professional and social skills, improving their employability.

Work-based learning provides young people with the opportunity to apply their technical or academic skills while developing their employability. It encompasses on-the-job experience such as apprenticeships, as well as off-the-job experiences such as close-to-real simulations.

Improving the availability of work-based learning measures is one of the key objectives of the Youth Guarantee scheme. Similarly, improving the quality of such measures is central to the New Skills Agenda for Europe and the European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships.

Within this EU policy framework, Cedefop carries out activities within and across the Member States, gathering evidence to support policy-making at EU and national level and fostering European cooperation on measures to ease NEETs transitions into work.

Addressing the problem

The following tips may be useful for policy makers and practitioners involved in the design and delivery of interventions to help NEETs transitioning into employment.

Tip 1: Guide and prepare young people for work-based learning

There is considerable value in giving young people the means to assess their skills and understand their own strengths, learning styles and professional aspirations. Quality guidance is central to helping young people to develop career management skills and define their individual learning or career plans. This can ease their transition into work, giving them ownership of their career decisions while simultaneously managing their expectations. 

Career plans can include informal learning opportunities to develop the competences sought by employers or practical hands-on activities to support work experience. It is important to ensure that NEETs have acquired sufficient employability skills prior to undertaking work-based learning, especially in companies. These include basic competences and knowledge, but also social skills, such as maintaining a positive and respectful attitude. Education and training providers not only have a critical role in improving the employability of young people, but also in changing employers’ negative perceptions of their employability or motivation.

Tip 2: Encourage employers to create work-based learning opportunities

Actions that incentivise employers to provide NEETs with work experience opportunities can be financial or non-financial.

Non-financial actions could involve the development of partnerships between employers and various organisations working with NEETs (e.g. schools, PES, social services, youth NGOs). These actions can help employers to understand the economic value of tapping into the potential and enthusiasm of young NEETs. They also enable employers to promote their industries and workplaces to prospective recruits among NEETs. Another effective non-financial incentive is to use promoting bodies to work with groups of employers. They coordinate the administration and provision of apprenticeships or other on-the-job training opportunities, reducing the time burden for employers.

Recruitment subsidies can encourage employers to provide apprenticeship placements to NEETs. However, these financial incentives should be applied with caution to make sure that they are used with the intended purpose and for the target group. These incentives are most effective when combined with non-financial actions.

Tip 3: Ensure that work-based learning is a positive experience

For many young people, work-based learning is their first contact with the world of work. Ensuring that this is a positive experience will help to increase their motivation to complete their learning programme, attain a qualification and enter the labour market.

It is important to foster a welcoming and supportive work environment, with good learning opportunities. Any mismatches between the learners’ expectations and the reality of the profession should, where possible, be tackled before the experience takes place. Some useful measures to achieve this include:

  • The use of written agreements between the training provider, the company and the learner, detailing the training programme, activities and working conditions (including working hours).
  • Mechanisms to ensure that employers comply with their duties in relation to training (e.g. external agency or trade unions undertaking quality checks).
  • Feedback mechanisms to monitor whether the learner is facing difficulties during the on-the-job training (e.g. periodic discussions with a tutor at the VET school or the workplace tutor).
  • Processes for mediating conflict between trainees/apprentices and in-company trainer/employer.

These and other measures to promote inclusive work-based learning environments are described further in the VET toolkit for tackling early leaving.

Tip 4: Promote the development of entrepreneurial skills

Entrepreneurial skills development goes beyond raising NEETs’ awareness of self-employment as a career option. An entrepreneurial mindset is characterised by initiative, independent thinking and decisive action where necessary. Developing NEETs’ entrepreneurial skills and attitudes contributes to their successful transition into employment by promoting their ownership of their career choices. This, in turn, enhances their motivation to work.

Career guidance and mentoring services play an important role in giving NEETs the opportunity to be involved in entrepreneurial activities that will allow them to identify and capitalise on business and employment opportunities. Entrepreneurship education programmes across Europe are increasing, expanding the scope for employment and social services to collaborate with schools and training providers to enhance the entrepreneurial skills of NEETs.

Related resources

    Good practices
    Good practice

    400+Future is a low threshold programme that targets young NEETs to support them to re-engage in education and training activities. The programme offers individualised support and practical experience in a variety of vocational fields as well as the opportunity to attain a lower secondary education certificate.

    Good practice
    Integrated guidance and support for vocational education pathways for highly disadvantaged youth beyond the status of NEET

    The aim of the practice is to change the status of young people from (beyond) NEETs to SEEDs (Searching for Education Employment and Development)[1].


    [1] İbrahim Çelik, spacelab_umwelt (Offene und Aufsuchende Jugendarbeit)

    Good practice
    Rete Integrata per i Giovani del Vicentino

    In Italy, one of the main difficulties of the Youth Guarantee Programme in the course of the first phase was to reach and engage the most discouraged NEETs from social backgrounds characterised by high levels of poverty that affected their ability to enter and remain within training and education courses, to gain work experience and to find out about the possibilities offered by the Programme.

    Good practice
    Διακρατικό Κέντρο Απασχόλησης YOUTHShare, Ελληνικό Παράρτημα

    The Transnational Employment Branch of YOUTHShare in Greece adopts, adapts and elaborates on the new practices for work inclusion based on Ripples in the Water Methodology from Norway -NHO- Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises). Based on this methodology, the YOUTHShare employment Centre and its staff aims through a person-centred and empower-focused approach at matching effectively the jobseeker with a potential employer.

    Good practice
    Cours d’orientation et d’initiation professionnelles (COIP) et cours d’initiation professionnelle à divers métiers (IPDM)

    COIP/IPDM aim to equip young people with the necessary skills and competences they need to integrate into a VET programme or the labour market.

    Good practice
    Piazza dei Mestieri

    The YOUTHShare e-learning platform offers skills on resilient sectors of the Mediterranean economy, specially designed for NEETs.

    Eurofound's thematic area on NEETs

    The website summarizes Eurofound's extensive research on NEETs

    ILO Technical brief

    This brief reviews the implementation of early intervention measures within national YG plans and anaylses the interactions between prevention and curative policies and their effectiveness in addressing the difficulties young people face at different stages in the life-course.

    Achieving more effective transitions between education and work

    This report examines the quality of the curriculum offer and careers guidance in place at key transition points from education into work, and looks at how it might be improved.

    Volume I: investigating causes and extent

    This Cedefop study examines the contribution that vocational education and training (VET) can make to reducing early leaving from education and training (ELET).

    Volume II: evaluating policy impact

    This Cedefop study focuses on the contribution that vocational education and training (VET) can make to reducing early leaving from education and training (ELET).


    This report analyses the labour market situation of young people in Europe, with a specific focus on the group categorised as NEET.


    This initiative is part of the New Skills Agenda for Europe, launched in June 2016.


    This book brings together contributions from the ILO’s Youth Employment Programme detailing policies that enable young people to find decent work.

    Answers from International Experience

    This study draws out policy messages on how to design and implement high-quality apprenticeships.

    ILO Technical brief

    This brief reviews the strategies to support unemployed young people in finding work. It is based on the analysis of evidence of similar strategies that have been put in place by EU countries over the past two decades.

    ILO Technical brief

    This brief analyses the outreach approaches and strategies that target young people who are inactive with the objective of supporting them in entering the labour market or re-engaging in education and training activities. In particular, it explores the practices implemented through national YG schemes in support of inactive young people to re-enter the labour market or return to education and training.

    Practitioner's toolkit

    This toolkit is intended to assist you in designing and implementing your approach to activate people not in employment, education and training (NEETs). The toolkit provides concrete guidance and tools for PES to assess the NEET challenge and set priorities; draft and implement an Action Plan; and develop new tools, measures and competences from scratch.

    How to work with NEETs - A Toolkit for local administrations

    At EU level NEETs (Not in Employment Education or Training) are considered one of the most problematic groups in the context of youth unemployment. The aim of the NET not NEET project was to enhance networking and co-operation amongst public and private actors.