Problem statement

The first Cedefop VET opinion survey found that 87% of VET graduates are happy with the work-related skills they acquired, compared to 62% of general education graduates. The survey also showed that 60% of VET participants found a long-term job within one month of finishing their studies.

VET courses reinforce skills development through the provision of work-based learning and bridging opportunities. This approach means that young people are then well positioned to enter either the labour market or tertiary education. 

The demands of the labour market require a workforce with a broad range of skills and competences. VET programmes should be continuously updated and aligned with the skill needs of employers, ensuring a valuable pathway for young people into employment.

The continued success and development of VET lies in the tailoring of individualised pathways. Encompassing both low and high-skilled individuals and the long and short-term unemployed, NEETs are a heterogeneous group with different characteristics and needs. Where some NEETs have little work experience, others have had several periods of unemployment or worked in unskilled jobs, which can lead to a deterioration of skills.  A key first step is to assess the skills that individuals already have. Measures to develop skills are most relevant to those who left education and training with little or no formal qualifications.


Skills development is particularly relevant for the following NEET subgroups defined by Eurofound:
■ Long-term unemployed
■ Discouraged 
For more information, please see the section Who are NEETs.

Addressing the problem

Policy makers and practitioners involved in the design and delivery of interventions to help NEETs developing their skills may find useful the following tips.

Tip 1: Assess young people’s existing skills and competences

Assessing the skills and competences of young people can identify the skills they already have to offer, as well as those they need to develop. This includes basic, digital, transversal and technical skills. Young people acquire a range of skills through various experiences, only some of which are work and education-related. In-depth analysis of their skills and competences can lead to specific learning pathways. For example, an individual may apply for a specific course or training opportunity which could then be tailored through the addition of a job placement.

Assessment will help to validate (identify, document, assess and certify) current skills, select appropriate pedagogies to pursue and avoid repeating curriculum material that the young person has already covered. Further information on validation of non-formal and informal learning can be found here.

Tip 2: Tailor learning pathways to interests and learning styles

Initial skills assessments should inform the development of person-centred learning pathways. These should be set out in individual learning or career plans, outlining personalised learning objectives. These objectives should be realistic and measurable, include short-term and long-term goals, and allow for a certain degree of flexibility.

Quality guidance is crucial to support the definition of learning objectives. It puts NEETs in control of their own decisions and supports them to align their learning or career plans with their learning styles, interests and aspirations.   

Career plans may cover: hands-on activities to support work experience and career progression; academic support to obtain relevant qualifications to progress into tertiary education; sourcing alternatives to mainstream education to acquire formal qualifications; informal learning opportunities to develop competences sought by employers (i.e. communication, team work, problem-solving skills). It is important for trainers/teachers and other support staff to conduct regular reviews to assess progress and, if necessary, to make appropriate revisions. This includes providing guidance, additional support and resources (e.g. counselling services, mentoring) to individuals with complex needs. Possible barriers to achieving both short and long-term goals should be identified early in the planning stages.

Further information and tips of tailored learning pathways can be found here.

Tip 3: Develop activities to build motivation

Young people who are NEET often suffer from low self-esteem and lack confidence in their capacity to learn, discouraging them from participating in education or training. This is detrimental to their integration into education and employment. Building up their motivation can contribute to increased confidence and encourage them to take responsibility for their aspirations.

Activities outside the formal environment - volunteering, sport clubs and other community-based opportunities - promote personal and social development. Key to the success of such activities is building trust between young people and members of staff, which in turn fosters their motivation to engage in formal learning.

Engaging in stimulating activities outside formal environments can build knowledge, understanding and skills in relation to entrepreneurship. Such activities are most effective where they have concrete objectives and are guided by professionals.

Further information on effective measures to build motivation can be found here.

Tip 4: Foster development of the right skills

Skills development should be aligned with the demands of the labour market and address potential skill mismatches. Basic and transversal skills are valued in the job market and will support the integration of young people into employment. A range of preparation measures (work placements, taster sessions, business/enterprise studies curriculum) will enable learners to be ‘work-ready’ when making the transition into employment. Such measures will help to develop their employability skills, such as CV preparation, interview techniques and leadership.  

Second chance measures may allow some young people to acquire skills and behaviours such as time management, self-motivation, problem-solving, communication and interpersonal skills. These are all examples of key competences required within the workplace. 

VET providers can develop a highly skilled workforce by fostering entrepreneurship and digital skills. Such skills should be part of the curricula and educational activities. For instance, VET schools can use hands-on experience to promote entrepreneurship in a practical way (e.g. project work in cooperation with local enterprises or communities, student mini-companies). In encouraging entrepreneurship, the focus is best placed on the individual’s personality, creativity, problem-solving and experience-oriented education.

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
Projeto CLICK-Ativar Competências para a Empregabilidade

CLICK functions as a mediation project between job supply and demand, working as a complementary tool to public employment services. The scope of this project is twofold including the development of soft skills among vulnerable or unemployed people and actions for raising awareness about social responsibility among potential employers. By joining efforts with multiple stakeholders and working closely with the actual beneficiaries, the project aims to make the “click” in their lives.

Good practice
Mobile Gaming App for Identification and documentation of Skills and Competences for disadvantaged young NEETs

Getting NEETs back on track by the "VET-ification" of gaming to encourage them to take part in Vocational Education and Training (VET) or at least get in touch with VET.

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

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.

Work Pack of training materials, methodologies, course plans and class schedules to help deliver Effective Training for NEETs

This comprehensive document consists of training methods, schedules, core modules and effective element combinations in a toolkit style. There are themes and overviews of current training best practice, and specific case studies and examples outlining effective training. This training material pack is a ‘ready to go’ template for NEET teachers and training organisations. This template is made up of teaching materials which are broken down into individual modules to be completed in a 5-day course.