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EACEA National Policies Platform


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.6 Integration of young people in the labour market

Last update: 26 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 13/11/2020

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, whilst others are specific to Wales.

UK-wide measures

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for welfare, pensions and child maintenance policy. 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”. The 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.

Work programme

The Work and Health Programme is the UK Government’s welfare-to-work scheme, offering support to individuals who are long-term unemployed and some disabled benefit claimants. 

The Work 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.

There are two main contractors, appointed by the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions, who deliver the programme in Wales.

Young people aged 18- to 24 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). 

Analysis of individuals who are unemployed, economically inactive and claim benefits suggests that the performance of the Work Programme in Wales has been poorer than the UK average. In 2015, the Welsh Government commissioned independent advice from the Public Policy Institute for Wales on how the Work Programme might be operated differently in Wales in the future. There have been no further announcements on the direction this might take.

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 across Wales and the rest of the UK. 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.


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. 

Welsh measures

Jobs Growth Wales aims to create jobs for unemployed job-ready young people aged 16 to 24. The programme provides unemployed young people with a job for six months paid at or above the National Minimum Wage. The intention is that the job will be sustained by the host employer after the 6 month period has been completed. The programme is funded by the Welsh Government with the support of the European Social Fund (ESF). Programme specification and guidance for contractors is available.

Vacancies are advertised on the Careers Wales website – under the Jobs Growth Wales tab.

An evaluation of the second phase of the scheme 2015-2020 was released in June 2020. It found: 

Between June 2015 and September 2019, 3,989 young people were supported into a work placement through JGW. Compared to the 2012 to 2015 programme, the 2015 to 2019 programme had fewer applicants per employment opportunity. A lower proportion of opportunities were filled. However, where they have been filled, they are more likely to be completed with a positive outcome. 

JGW participants sustain high rates of employment. A total of 74% had secured employment at the end of their placement. This rose to 84.6% 12 months later. Almost three quarters (72%) of participants felt their work placement played a role in securing their current position. Employability skills and job-specific skills were most commonly cited by participants as skills they had gained through JGW.

Communities for Work 

Under the Communities for Work programme, youth mentors and Jobcentre Plus specialist employment advisors based in Wales’s 52 most deprived communities provide intensive one-to-one guidance to help young people access education, training and employment.

Work experience programme 

The Work Experience scheme, described in a House of Commons briefing note, 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 Creditfor three months but before they join the Government’s main welfare-to-work scheme, the Work 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.

DWP administers the scheme through the employment and social security network, Jobcentre Plus, matching individuals with suitable work experience placements. These last between two and eight weeks and 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 take them onto an Apprenticeship. Participants on the scheme do not receive a wage, but continue to receive benefits and must continue to look for permanent work. Jobcentre Plus cover travel and childcare costs if required.

Youth Guarantee

The Welsh Government committed to introducing a Youth Guarantee in the 2013 Youth Engagement and Progression Framework Implementation Plan. The Youth Guarantee comprises the offer, acceptance and commencement of a suitable place in education or training. It may be: 

  • a part / full time place in a school or college
  • an Apprenticeship opportunity
  • a Welsh Government Traineeship place
  • a place on a re-engagement programme
  • a volunteering opportunity
  • a Level 2 training programme during employment.

A suitable offer for a young person is one that is appropriate to their individual needs. This means it must be delivered at the right level through the right learning method, in the right geographical location and it should engage them in education, training or other activities. It will help them progress towards sustainable employment.

Local authorities are responsible for the delivery and success of the Youth Guarantee.

The Youth Guarantee Prospectus (also known as the Common Area Prospectus) is available on the Careers Wales website. It provides young people in Years 10 and 11 (age 14/15 and 15/16) with information about the range of education, training and employment options available to them. 

Young people applying through this system can then be tracked to ensure they have both successfully completed an application and, subsequently, whether they have taken up that place or not.

Note: The Welsh Youth Guarantee only partially meets the provisions of the European Youth Guarantee, since it applies only to 16 year-olds who are making the transition from compulsory education for the first time, and not to 25-year-olds who are unemployed or leaving formal education.

Employability Skills Programme 

The Employability Skills Programme aims to support unemployed adults to obtain and remain in work by improving their employability skills. The programme offers:

  • high quality work placements
  • employer-specific training
  • preparation for work training
  • essential Skills provision

The Employability Skills Programme is delivered via a flexible, tailored package of support for individuals and aims to achieve a high level of employment outcomes.

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 Wales 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 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, the UK labour market is increasingly characterised by a growth in self-employment, part-time working, zero-hours contracts and increased female participation.

All employers, in the private and public sectors in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland), 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 schemes described above is generally provided by the Welsh Government and by the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions. Jobs Growth Wales receives some funds from the European Social Fund.

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

Quality assurance

Organisations which have been awarded contracts to deliver work-based learning programmes in Wales (Apprenticeships, Traineeships and Jobs Growth Wales) must have in place systems to manage the quality of learning and to ensure the achievement and maintenance of high standards. 

The Contractor must undertake an annual self-assessment, based on guidance published by the Welsh Government and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education and Training in Wales (Estyn). The resulting self-assessment report and quality development plan must be submitted to the Welsh Government. Progress against actions identified in the quality development plan must be reviewed at least three times a year, and the outcomes of the review documented by the Contractor. This documentation, together with supporting evidence of actions taken, must be made available to the Welsh Government and Estyn on request.  Full details of these requirements are provided in the Work Based Learning Programme Specification and Guidance for Apprenticeships, Traineeships and Jobs Growth Wales Programmes – April 2015 to March 2019.

Estyn is responsible for inspecting work-based training funded by the Welsh Government, careers companies, and adult education. The Common Inspection Framework (CIF) from 2010 and Guidance for the Inspection of Work-based Learning set out the way work based learning is inspected.

The aim of the Work Programme is to support participants into employment that lasts; the payment by results model is intended to reflect this aim. Work programme providers are responsible for ensuring participants receive full information about the services available to them. Full details are available in the Department for Work and Pensions Work Programme provider guidance.