Skip to main content


EACEA National Policies Platform


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.6 Integration of young people in the labour market

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 25/11/2020 - 18:31

On this page
  1. Youth employment measures
  2. Flexicurity measures focusing on young people
  3. Reconciliation of private and working life for young people
  4. Funding of existing schemes/initiatives
  5. Quality assurance

Youth employment measures

The Department for the Economy provides and supports a number of training programmes to assist young people to make a successful transition to the labour market. These include the Assured Skills ProgrammeBridge to Employment and Training for Success.  

Youth employment scheme

The youth employment scheme allows unemployed 18- to 24- year-olds to gain employability skills and experience. The scheme includes short work experience placements. These placements can last between two and eight weeks and give participants the chance to try out various tasks in a real work situation and develop skills needed for a job.

Youth guarantee 

The Youth Guarantee is a European Union approach to tackling youth unemployment by ensuring that all young people under 25 – whether registered with employment services or not – receive a good-quality, concrete offer within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. A quality offer is defined as a job, apprenticeship, traineeship, or continued education and can be adapted to each individual need and situation.

The 2018 Youth Guarantee Country Report for the UK contains the following statement about the UK position in relation to it: 

“The UK has not established a Youth Guarantee scheme. Whilst the government supports the approach set out in the Council Recommendation, it believes that the existing provision in the UK – in particular the Youth Contract and additional support for 16-17-year-old NEETs - fulfils the basic requirements.”

In April 2019, a Youth Charter was announced - a collaborative initiative between youth charities and the Department for Culture, Media, and Society to coordinate government youth policy. 

Youth obligation 

Since April 2017, 'Youth Obligation' (YO) has been the main welfare programme for young people. It supports 18- to-21-year-olds to take part in work-based learning in order to develop the motivation, skills and experience they need to move into employment.  Payment of welfare benefits depends on the young person taking part in a work placement or preparing to begin an apprenticeship or traineeship after six months.  

Universal Credit replaced a number of benefits, including Jobseekers Allowance, in 2017 as the instrument through which people claim benefits. To get Universal Credit in Northern Ireland you must: be of working age (between 18 and the state pension age), not be in full time education or training, and not have savings over £16,000. 

Steps 2 Success 

Steps 2 Success is a personalised employment programme which aims to help participants gain the skills and experience they need to find and keep a job. The programme is mandatory for those who have been claiming Jobseeker's Allowance for a specific time. 18- to 24-year-olds must start the programme after 9 months and those over 25 after 12 months. 

Participants are required to be in the programme for 52 weeks. They continue to receive benefit payments during that time, although failure to take part in any aspect of the programme can lead to benefits being withdrawn.

Those participating in Steps2Work are ineligible for Into Work Training Support (IWTS – see below).

Bridge to Employment for Jobseekers

The Bridge to Employment programme provides customised training to unemployed people to give them the skills necessary to compete for new employment opportunities. The programmes are run in response to employers with job vacancies so the training is tailored to meet the skills needed for that job.

The programme is open for those over 18 who are unemployed or who work less than 16 hours a week. 

Training for Success

Training for Success is designed for young people aged 16-17 (up to 24 years for those who qualify under extended eligibility) and provides training to give them the tools and skills they need to get a job.

Training for Success is delivered across four strands:

  • Skills for your life – helping participants address personal and development needs and gain skills and qualifications
  • Skills for Work Level 1 and 2 – helping participants gain skills and vocationally related qualifications to be able to gain employment or progress to the next level of training provision or to further education
  • Skills for Work Level 3 – helping participants who have not secured paid employment to achieve level 3 qualifications.

Note: Both general and vocational qualifications are grouped into levels within the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), from entry level to level 8. The levels are mapped to the European Qualifications Framework.

Participants who go into training through Training for Success automatically qualify for a non means tested Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) of £40 per week. Travel, lodging and childcare allowances may be paid depending on individual circumstances.

Into Work Training Support 

Into work training support (IWTS) provides an opportunity to update or develop new work skills and to get a recognised qualification which will enhance the prospects of finding and keeping a job.

IWTS is aimed at people who have been assessed by Employment Service Advisers as only needing a period of short training to help them into or closer to employment. IWTS includes a range of training courses designed to meet an individual's needs. It consists of two elements:

  • Short Accredited Training Courses (SATC) and
  • Industry Standard Training Courses (NAIST)

Those participating in Steps2Work are ineligible for IWTS.


Flexicurity measures focusing on young people

The European Commission defines flexicurity as an integrated strategy for simultaneously enhancing flexibility and security in the labour market. It attempts to reconcile employers' need for a flexible workforce with workers' need for security. It is a key element of European Union Employment Guidelines and the European Employment Strategy.

There is no formal implementation of flexicurity measures for young people or the general population in Northern Ireland or across the UK.

An assessment of how far the UK’s flexible and lightly regulated labour market amounts to a form of flexicurity is given in the UK country description in the European Observatory of Working Life.

Reconciliation of private and working life for young people

There are no youth-specific policy measures / initiatives to reconcile the private and working lives of young people. As noted in the introduction to this chapter, the UK labour market is increasingly characterised by a growth in self-employment, part-time working, zero-hours contracts and increased female participation.

There are also certain fundamental principles to which everyone must have regard.  They cover equality, freedom of information and data protection.

Funding of existing schemes/initiatives

Funding for the initiatives described above is normally provided through the departmental budgets of the responsible organisations, e.g. Department for the Economy or Department for Communities.

Quality assurance

Quality assurance mechanisms are generally built into the eligibility criteria for individual programmes. For example, for providers to be eligible under the Bridge to Employment programme described in ‘Youth employment measures’ above, they must agree to participate in a project evaluation. Accountability requirements for public expenditure will determine that other quality assurance processes are carried out, such as post-implementation reviews.