Westminster Employment Forum

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

March 2021

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***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 widespread unemployment affecting young people.

It will bring out latest thinking in areas including:

  • careers advice and guidance - Careers Hubs, service quality and the Gatsby Benchmarks, and the impact of the pandemic on employment, guidance services and work experience opportunities
  • work placements and training - implementation of the Kickstart Scheme, and increasing participation
  • skill gaps, regional imbalances, and tackling longer-term unemployment

The conference is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from the DWP; BEIS; DfE; the Cabinet Office; MHCLG; Ofsted; the DCMS; the Department for Communities, NI; DIT; the Department for the Economy, NI; the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, NI; the ESFA; the FCDO; the Home Office; the MoJ; 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

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 - with 120,000 temporary jobs being created by the scheme and almost 2,000 young people having begun their placements
      • processing times - concerns that applications for the scheme are taking too long
      • recently announced changes - aimed at encouraging increased employer involvement, by dropping the eligibility requirement of companies offering 30 placements or more
    • 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 new incentives for employers taking on trainees and apprentices, and their impact

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 the sector-based work academy programme (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

The policy and funding context:

  • Employment in the UK: January 2021 - recently released by the ONS, showing an unemployment rate for 18-24 year olds of 13.2%
  • Skills for Jobs:
    • the newly published further education white paper setting out reforms to further and technical education and training
    • aiming to boost the number of young people in work and fill key skills gaps, with measures including:
      • new College Business Centres to develop targeted skills plans and meet local needs through business and college cooperation
      • post-16 technical education and qualifications being employer led and designed by 2030
      • a new Skills and Productivity Board to inform policy and target investment towards high value skill areas
      • the Workforce Industry Exchange programme designed to facilitate two-way exchange between further education providers and industry, alongside a national recruitment campaign, as part of the plan to attract industry experts to teaching careers
  • the Kickstart Scheme - introduced as part of the Plan for Jobs, reported by government to have created more than 120,000 job placements with 1868 young people starting their 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 close to 270,000 young people
  • £111m to triple the scale of traineeships - announced by HM Treasury alongside payments for employers who hire new apprentices
  • Job Entry Targeted Support - specialist support and advice being offered to those out of work for three months due to COVID-19 backed by £238m in funding, with the latest guidance calling for a holistic approach and sustained employment outcomes 
  • Coast to Capital Employment - recent calls by the DWP for proposals to be put forward for schemes supporting those in the coast to capital LEP area who are unemployed into work, in anticipation of a rise in unemployment, and an increased focus on getting young people into work
  • 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 who have been unemployed for more than three months
  • the sector-based work academy programme (SWAP) - offering jobseekers experience, skills and guaranteed interviews in new areas of work, with the government providing an additional 80,000 places in the coming financial year
  • 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 improved opportunities for upskilling
  • Job Finding Support service - the new online scheme designed to support recently out of work, but skilled and experienced, jobseekers to find new opportunities, with 160,000 jobseekers expected to access the service through the next year
  • Youth Employment Initiative, North and Midlands - the recent call for providers to come forward to run a new youth unemployment initiative designed to engage with marginalised NEET young people and provide skills, work experience and training opportunities so as to tackle youth unemployment and aid local economic recovery

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 Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; the Department for Education; the Department for International Trade; the Department for the Economy, NI; the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, 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. Also due to attend are representatives from 18+ Leaving Care Service; Anglia Ruskin University; Aspire-igen Group; Brighter Futures for Children; Cambridge Ahead; Caramel Rock; Careers Wales; Care Plus Group; CASCAID; Centre for Leadership Performance; Chichester College; Coach Core Foundation; Communities for Work Plus, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council; Curious Minds; Ecorys UK; London Borough of Bromley; More House School; MTC; Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council; North East Local Enterprise Partnership; One Education; Poverty Allleviation Scholarships Foundation; Sheffield Futures; The Careers and Enterprise Company; The Sheffield College; The University of Huddersfield; Unipart Logistics; University of Exeter; Well Grounded Jobs CIC; Westminster City Council; Yeovil District Hospital NHSFT and Youth Service, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council.

A press pass has been reserved by a representative from Tes.

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

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript 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

Shortly after every Westminster Employment Forum seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates