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EACEA National Policies Platform


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.6 Integration of young people in the labour market

Last update: 25 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 10/11/2020

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 following subsections describe welfare and employment initiatives designed to support and assist young people. Some are UK-wide, while others are specific to Scotland. 

UK-wide measures

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for welfare, pensions and child maintenance policy. The DWP supports all those who are out-of-work, including young people, through the employment and social security network, Jobcentre Plus and through the online job search tool, “Find A Job”. DWP also administers the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). Various forms of assistance are available to unemployed benefit claimants who may improve their chances of employment through training; some of these are aimed at young people. They are described below.

The Work and Health Programme is the UK Government’s welfare-to-work scheme, offering support to the long-term unemployed and some disabled benefit claimants. The Work and Health Programme is designed to allow service providers (who run the programme) the freedom to introduce and implement their own ideas and schemes to help unemployed participants find work. Providers may decide to place people in work-related activities, such as work experience placements. The programme provides support to help people find and keep a job. It is available on a voluntary basis, to those with health conditions or disabilities, and to various groups of vulnerable people. It also provides support to those who have been unemployed for over two years, and it will be compulsory for this group.

Young people aged from 18- to 24-years are referred to the programme when they have been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for nine months. (Those aged 25 and over are placed on the programme after 12 months.)  

As a response to the economic implications of COVID-19, the government announced a Plan for Jobs in July 2020, which includes a Kickstart Scheme specifically targeted at getting young people into employment. The Kickstart Scheme provides funding to employers to create job placements for 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment. Employers of all sizes can apply for funding which covers: 100% of the National Minimum Wage (or the National Living Wage depending on the age of the participant) for 25 hours per week for a total of 6 month associated employer National Insurance contribution employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. Employers can spread the start date of the job placements up until the end of December 2021. A Kickstart Scheme application must be for a minimum of 30 job placements. If a single employer cannot provide this many job placements, they can find a Kickstart gateway, such as a local authority, charity or trade body for help applying. For Scotland, £2 billion will be allocated to create work placements for young people. 


Work experience programme 

The Work Experience scheme, as described in a 2015 House of Commons research briefing, is targeted at 18-24 year olds who have little or no experience of work. Young people can participate in the scheme after they have been claiming) Universal Credit for three months but before they join the Government’s main welfare-to-work scheme, the Work and Health Programme (typically after claiming for nine months). Entry into the scheme is voluntary and individuals can choose to leave the placement before it is complete.

Under the scheme, individuals are matched with suitable work experience placements. These last between two and eight weeks, for between 25 and 30 hours a week. Some participants may have their placement extended by up to four weeks if an employer offers to hire them as an apprentice. Participants on the scheme do not receive a wage but continue to receive benefits and must continue to look for permanent work. Travel and childcare costs are also payable, if required.

Sector-based work academies 

Sector-based work academies (SBWA) are aimed at claimants (of all ages) who are considered relatively well prepared for employment, with no basic skills needs. Claimants are offered sector-specific training and work experience placements for a period of up to six weeks, followed by a job interview with an employer. Whilst attending a sector-based work academy, people will continue to claim benefits. Any travel and childcare costs associated with taking up a place in an academy will be covered. The job interview may also lead to apprenticeship places, and the training element of the academy may be used as the foundation of apprenticeship training.

In Scotland, the Employability Fund (see below) Stage 4 is used as a mechanism to deliver SBWA. 

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.  Receiving Universal Credit depends on the young person taking part in a work placement or preparing to begin an apprenticeship or traineeship after six months. 

18- to 21-year-olds on a low income are eligible for housing benefit (or the housing element of universal credit) (see the section on 'Housing' in the article on 'Access to Quality Services').  As part of the Youth Obligation this will be removed. The stated rationale, in the UK Government Summer Budget 2015, is to ensure 'young people in the benefits system face the same choices as young people who work and who may not be able to afford to leave home'.

Youth Guarantee

The Youth Guarantee is a European Union approach to tackling youth unemployment which ensures that all young people under 25 – whether registered with employment services or not – get a good-quality, concrete offer within 4 months of them leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. This offer should consist of a job, apprenticeship, traineeship, or continued education and 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

Scottish measures

Measures taken by the Scottish Government, and other relevant public agencies, to boost employment and entrepreneurship have a specific focus on 16- to- 19-year-olds, who are not already engaged in education, employment or training (NEET).

Community Jobs Scotland

Community Jobs Scotland (CJS) is a Scottish government scheme which helps 16- to 29-year-olds get a paid job in the voluntary sector. It is administered by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).

In 2017/18 the programme is targeted at more vulnerable young people, including individuals with a disability or those who are carers, early leavers from the armed forces or who have convictions.

Individual learning accounts Scotland

Individual Learning Accounts (ILA) provide £200 of funding per year for training which will develop skills or support a career move. They are open to all individuals (not just young people) who earn less than £20,000 a year; do not already hold a qualification at degree-level or above; and who are not undertaking any secondary, further or higher education. Training providers must be registered with Skills Development Scotland, which administers ILA.

Note that following a joint review of the ILA scheme undertaken by Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Government, the ILA is being replaced by a new scheme, Individual Training Accounts (ITA), from October 2017. This is to ensure that the scheme truly delivers the skills and training that will help people into employment. Changes include altered course eligibility criteria and Skills Development Scotland will be wholly responsible for the scheme's delivery. Further information about ITA can be found on the Skills Development Scotland website.

Young Person’s Guarantee

The Young Person’s Guarantee 2020 states: 

We will GUARANTEE every young person aged between 16 and 24 in Scotland, the opportunity, based on their own personal circumstances and ambitions, to go to university or college, an apprenticeship programme, training, fair employment including work experience or participating in a formal volunteering programme

The Young Person’s Guarantee is backed by £60 million investment and aims to give all young people in Scotland the chance to succeed despite the economic impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19). Organisations backing the Guarantee make five pledges to help young people at this critical time: 

  • prepare young people for the world of work through work experience, volunteering and work-based learning opportunities 
  • engage with and provide opportunities to young people who face barriers to work 
  • create work-based learning, training and upskilling opportunities for young people 
  • create jobs and opportunities for young people through apprenticeships, paid internships and work experience 
  • create an inclusive workplace to support learning and enable young people to meet their potential

You can read more on the website here

Job Start Payment 

A benefit to support 16 to 24 year olds into work if they have been unemployed for six months opened in August 2020. Job Start Payment is a one off £250 payment to help with the costs of starting a new job. The upper age limit rises to 25 for care leavers and the payment rises to £400 if the person has a child.


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 Scotland or 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 on 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, UK workplaces are increasingly flexible with a growth in self-employment, part-time working, zero-hours contracts and increasing female participation.

All employers, in Great Britain's (England, Wales and Scotland) private and public sectors, are bound by the Equality Act 2010. The Act seeks to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all, by adding to previous equality legislation where appropriate.  Under the Act, the following are ‘protected characteristics’ –the categories to which the law applies: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation.

Funding of existing schemes/initiatives

Funding for the UK schemes described earlier in this section is generally provided by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Work Programme functions on a payment-by-results basis: providers of work placements and other services therefore receive a job outcome payment after a participant has spent a minimum length of time in employment. Further information is available from the Department for Work and Pensions website

In Scotland, funding is provided by the Scottish Government and administered by Skills Development Scotland and its partners.

Quality assurance

Work programme

The Work and Health Programme, described above under Youth employment measures, makes use of co-funding under the EU’s European Social Fund. The Work and Health Programme functions on a payment-by-results basis as outlined above.

Scottish programmes

SDS has responsibility for making sure that all training funded through the National Training Programmes (NTPs) and individual learning accounts is high quality and brings planned benefits to the learner. Its quality assurance framework is available.