In the first few years after the financial crisis, the concept of NEET (young people not in employment, education or training) crystallised the policy problem of youth unemployment and inactivity that most Member States of the European Union are still facing. Since then, countless policies, measures, programmes and initiatives have been created to tackle the problem. But how can policy makers and practitioners know if any of these solutions are working, if they make a difference? Evaluating their impact and effects is crucial for continuing to respond to the NEET challenge and refining the support already offered to NEETs. Evaluations generate knowledge about what works and what doesn’t and ensure transparency and accountability.

An evaluation is an evidence-based assessment of an already implemented policy or programme. Conducting an evaluation of an initiative tackling the NEET problem is a challenging endeavour. Youth unemployment and inactivity is a stubborn problem with multiple interrelated causes. Helping young people find their way back into employment or education and training depends on solving individual challenges such as upskilling, finding an apprenticeship or solving childcare needs and resolving macro-level problems such as high unemployment rates, skills mismatching the labour market needs, or even gender or racial discrimination.

In such a complex, dynamic environment, a policy or a programme may have an impact on NEETs, but it may not succeed in engaging young people in employment or education and training. For instance, it may get them closer to finding employment by registering with a PES, or to enrolling in formal education and training by increasing their self-esteem and confidence in their capacity to learn. An evaluation would allow policy-makers and practitioners measure and assess this impact, and understand the conditions under which such impact may be improved.

Justifying spending resources on an evaluation may also be a challenge. Funding authorities may prefer to dedicate all available resources on direct support to young people rather than what may appear to be additional administrative costs. Linking evaluations to evidence-based policy-making will highlight the benefits of the generated knowledge and transparency.

This section provides guidance on how to design and carry out an evaluation. This guidance is complemented by two evaluation tools that guide policy makers and support providers through all the steps of a policy or programme evaluation: