For young people, the last two decades have seen major changes to post-16 education with the school age rising to 18, access to higher education being widened and apprenticeships being recreated. These reforms have consumed a significant amount of public money and government effort but progress has been too slow and results have been too piecemeal. In particular, labour market outcomes for young
people have been consistently poor. Youth unemployment fell from 14.6 to 12.5 percent over the period – after peaking at over 22 per cent following the financial crisis.
The gap between youth and overall levels of unemployment is higher at the end of the period than at the start and the number of young people who are NEET – not in employment, education or training – has barely changed. Since 2008, young people’s wages have fallen 16 per cent, taking their pay to below 1997 levels. The number of young people receiving careers advice or work experience has also fallen
and more new apprenticeships have gone to older workers than younger ones.
Despite universities’ success in opening their doors to more working class youngsters than ever before, retention rates and graduate outcomes for disadvantaged students have barely improved over the period. If progress continues at the current rate, it will take 120 years before disadvantaged young people become as likely as their better-off peers to achieve A levels or equivalent qualifications. In higher education, it will take more than 80 years before the participation gap
between students from disadvantaged and more advantaged areas closes.