Westminster Employment Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Reducing youth unemployment - next steps for careers advice and services, training and work placements, and tackling regional employment imbalances

Morning, Monday, 22nd February 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine progress and practical ways forward for reducing youth unemployment, improving the employability of young people, and supporting them as they enter the job market.

The discussion takes place against the backdrop of the economic impact of COVID-19 and with concerns about the prospect of widespread unemployment affecting young people.

The conference is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from the DWP; BEIS; DfE; the Cabinet Office; DCMS; the Department for Communities, NI; DIT; the Department for the Economy, NI; the ESFA; the FCDO; the Home Office; MHCLG; the MoJ; Ofsted; the Valuation Office Agency; the UK Space Agency; and the Welsh Government.

The agenda:

  • The careers strategy for young people in England
  • Careers advice and services - developing Careers Hubs, improving advice in schools, the role of the National Careers Service, and work search support
  • Work placements and other training opportunities - the Kickstart Scheme, participation, quality of provision, and engaging employers
  • Preparing young people for the labour market and the role of business in developing employment opportunities
  • Skills gaps and regional employment imbalances - the role of LEPs, providing upskilling opportunities, and the sector-based work academy programme (SWAP)
  • The next steps for the Work and Health Programme - its impact so far and its future role in tackling long term unemployment in the wake of COVID-19

The policy and funding context:

  • the youth unemployment rate - reaching 14.6%, 17.1% for men and 11.9% for women according to latest figures
  • the Kickstart Scheme - introduced as part of the Plan for Jobs, reported by government to have created more than 19,00 job placements
  • the National Careers Service - with £32m in extra funding over the next two years to increase the provision of personalised advice on training and work options to 270,000 young people
  • £111m to triple the scale of traineeships - announced by HM Treasury alongside payments for employers who hire new apprentices
  • Careers Hub scale-up to support skills for COVID recovery ­- bringing local secondary schools and colleges together with employers, universities and career guidance professionals
  • the Work and Health Programme - £95m being made available to expand the scope of the programme to those on benefits that have been unemployed for more than three months
  • the sector-based work academy programme (SWAP) - Government providing an additional £17m this year to triple the number of sector-based work academy placements in England
  • the Lifetime Skills Guarantee - offering adults without an A-Level equivalent a free college course, with increased flexibility in higher education loans to allow for improve opportunities for upskilling
  • Spending Review 2020 funding announcements: 
    • a £375m skills package, including £127m for the Plan for Jobs skills measures and £138m for the Lifetime Skills Guarantee
    • additional £291m into Further Education in 2021/22, aimed at maintaining the level of funding per learner in real terms
    • £110m to test and develop new and innovative models for collaboration between skills providers and employers
    • £1.6bn to ensure the delivery of over 25,000 Kickstart job placements
    • Restart Programme - the newly announced 3-year scheme, backed by over £2.9bn of funding, which will provide enhanced support to enable the long-term unemployed to find work in their local area and is expected to benefit over 1m claimants starting from the summer of 2021 

Areas for discussion:

  • careers advice and guidance:
    • COVID-19 - the impact on careers advice and guidance, and how the benefit of additional funding can be maximised
    • Careers Hubs:
      • progress - assessing their role so far in improving the careers offering across England
      • expansion - the practical steps which need to be taken in the roll out of the new Hubs
      • co-ordination - how to ensure the development of productive relationships between partners
    • service quality - the challenges faced by schools and colleges as they look to improve in line with the eight Gatsby benchmarks for careers advice and guidance
    • adapting work experience - how the pandemic will change the way in which careers education is presented and delivered:
      • options and practicalities for effective provision remotely
      • ways in which schools and colleges can work with employers for their provision
  • work placements and training
    • the Kickstart Scheme:
      • implementation - early experience and emerging issues
      • sustainable opportunities - prospects for the scheme to create long term jobs following the initial placements
      • the fit for participants - assessing whether young people are being offered the optimal level of training and experience
      • SMEs - whether the scheme is designed effectively for small businesses
    • participation - how traineeships can increase at level 2 and 3 in line with the Government’s ambitions for, and the impact of new incentives for employers taking on trainees and apprentices
  • skills gaps and regional imbalances:
    • regional youth unemployment:
      • the future role of Local Enterprise Partnerships in addressing local skills gaps
      • the government aims to triple the number of sector-based work academy placements in England with more vocational training and guaranteed interviews
      • the likely impact of expansion of SWAP on youth employment
    • longer term unemployment:
      • expansion of the Work and Health Programme to those who have been unemployed for more than three months
      • the programme’s impact and future role in tackling unemployment in the wake of the pandemic

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from BEIS; the Cabinet Office; the DCMS; the Department for Communities, NI; the Department for Education; the Department for International Trade; the Department for the Economy, NI; the DWP; the ESFA; Estyn; the FCDO; the Home Office; MHCLG; the Ministry of Justice; Ofsted; the Valuation Office Agency; the UK Space Agency; and the Welsh Government.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as from schools, colleges and universities, careers professionals, employers, and HR and recruitment specialists, training providers and support services, professional bodies and trade unions, local authorities, charities, and advocacy groups, academics and commentators, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

John Yarham

Interim Chief Executive Officer, The Careers and Enterprise Company

Lord Bilimoria

President, CBI; Chancellor, University of Birmingham; and President, UK Council for International Student Affairs

Austin Hardie

Operational Managing Director of Employability, Shaw Trust


Nigel Mills MP

Member, Work and Pensions Committee

Debbie Abrahams MP

Member, Work and Pensions Committee


Councillor Sean Fielding

Leader, Oldham Council

Mark Smith

Chief Executive Office, Ada. The National College for Digital Skills, London

Jude Robinson

Head of Strategy, Skills & Participation, Hampshire County Council

Ruth South

Head of Graduate and Apprentice Programmes, Capgemini UK

Jan Ellis

Chief Executive, CDI

Angie Doll

Managing Director, Southern Rail and Gatwick Express

Patrick Craven

Director, Assessment Policy, Research and Compliance, City and Guilds

Chris Russell

Policy Lead for Talent and Skills, The National Centre for Universities and Business

Joe Fitzsimons

Head of Education and Skills Policy, Institute of Directors

Mike Cherry

National Chair, Federation of Small Businesses

Anita Straffon

Deputy Chief Executive and Deputy Principal, The Sheffield College

Dr Jamie Mackay

Skills Strategy Manager, Enterprise M3

Elaine Bowker

Principal and Group Chief Executive, The City of Liverpool College; and Champion, Skills and Equality & Diversity, Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership