Fitting in: How Young People in Employment at 16 and 17 Find a Place for Themselves in Policy and in Their Communities.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal II (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Distributed Paper
Becky HOLLOWAY, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
Young people in England are now required to participate in learning until they are 18 (up from 16). This new requirement for “participation” changes the way in which young people in employment are conceptualised in policy. Young workers, (around 1% of 16 year olds and 3.5% of 17 year olds) now find themselves caught between two larger classifications of young people; those in full time academic or vocational education or nationally accredited work-based training (all considered as “participating”), and those who are not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Drawing on interviews conducted with 30 young people, and administrative data of four school-leaving cohorts in one northern UK local authority area, this paper examines the impact that the new conceptualisation of pre-18 entry into employment has on the lives of young workers. It explores the first-hand experiences of young people, how they perceive themselves within their communities, and the impact of early employment and “non-participation” on their social circles, family relations, and living circumstances. The paper also argues that young workers are in great danger of falling between the gaps in youth support services; potentially receiving neither the re-engagement support offered to unemployed or inactive young people, nor the progression-support that young people in learning receive through their education or training providers.

In presenting this paper, a number of pen-portraits of young workers will be shared alongside the outputs from regression analysis of young people’s post-16 participation pathways. The mixed-methods approach taken allows for person-level and trend data to be combined with specific examples of individual experience, and demonstrates that despite the frequent and numerous challenges they face, these are young people who can and do take a front seat in defining their place in society.