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.
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.
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.
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.
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.