Laura-Jane Rawlings, CEO Youth Employment UKHaving to rely on luck : why young people aren’t ‘levelling up’

Laura-Jane Rawlings , Founder and CEO, Youth Employment UK

Youth Employment UK has today launched the results from the 2020 Youth Voice Census, an annual survey capturing the experiences of 14-24-year old’s as they transition between education and employment.
The Youth Voice Census found that the playing field is not equal for all young people. The careers information and support they receive throughout education and into employment will be influenced by their gender, race, eligibility for free school meals and any additional needs they may have.


  • Young men were more likely to hear about Apprenticeships and starting their own business
  • Young women were more likely to hear about going to university
  • Black respondents were less likely to hear about apprenticeship opportunities and going to university
    Young people with additional needs were less likely to hear about going to university or undertaking an apprenticeship
  • Young people eligible for free school meals were more likely to hear about accessing Jobcentre support services


Opportunities and pathways are not being opened up to all young people leaving them navigating the already difficult task of planning their future without the full range of information and support it demands. The education and employment system have more to do, but so do employers. Whilst we are seeing a good number of employers support young people through school based activity there’s more to be done in ensuring that there are enough quality and varied work experiences and entry routes into employment with good jobs and progression for those young people who often fall through the cracks.


Young people often rely on their family when it comes to making next step choices, this reliance can cause other challenges. Social Mobility is further widening in society and not all families are able to provide the social, economic and cultural support young people need to improve their own mobility, during lock-down young people have had to rely on family support more than ever before which raises the question of who is levelling the playing field? There is still too much reliance on who your parents know and their ability to help their children progress.

When I think about my journey to work I do not think the government or my school provided me with the help I needed. I had to rely on my parents, the network around me and luck. I do not think young people should have to rely on luck to get ahead.
Ciara ,Youth Employment UK Youth Ambassador

The Youth Voice Census shows us that Ciara’s experience is not unique, young people experience high levels of disparity when it comes to being supported and prepared for the world of work. The Youth Voice Census gives a view of how young people felt about their experiences of education and employment just before, and in the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic.


What does this mean for a world post coronavirus?


Young people are about to face the greatest youth employment challenge on record. This generation of young people are likely to face scarring impacts having experienced an abrupt change to their education experience, mental health and wellbeing issues due to social isolation and the very real experience of losing family members, or seeing people they love “at risk” of falling ill to Covid-19.


Youth Employment UK’s CEO, Laura-Jane Rawlings explains:
“We all have a role to play in ensuring that young people have quality options for work, education and training available to them.  Firstly, we need to move faster to eradicate the inequalities in our education, training and employment systems.


Young people are going to need more tailored support and guidance to help them navigate a difficult labour market and it is important we use this time to make all of the systems around our young people work. We need to ensure that quality careers provision is available to young people in all settings, in all levels of education and beyond.

We must support employers to engage, recruit and support young people better. Starting your journey as a Youth Friendly Employer is the first step employers can take to supporting a fairer, Youth Friendly UK.


And finally, systems that work for young people have to be designed with them, the government, business, education and the employability sector must listen to what young people are telling them. The Youth Voice Census provides organisations an opportunity to listen, take action and make changes.”


Laura-Jane is a passionate campaigner for youth employment and the rights for all young people to access quality employment and have their voices heard on the issues that affect them. Recognised as a leading youth employment expert, Laura-Jane provides support, insight and expertise to many groups such as the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Youth Employment, two ESF National Sub-Committees: Employment, Skills and Social Inclusion and Equality and Diversity and has supported a range of expert groups on issues of social mobility, employment and skills.  

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