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Demos demands 'pay-back' for employers who offer the disadvantaged young quality internships and work experience

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Employers who give quality internships to disadvantaged young people - such as young offenders and care leavers - should receive 'pay-back' from the Government, says new research from Demos.

The report shows employers would receive payment if their intern had found stable employment within a year of completing their placement.

The independent think tank claims the state stands to make significant savings by getting young people who would otherwise be NEET (not in employment, education or training) off welfare and into the workplace. Giving employers between £1,000 and £5,000 for every successful intern would help mitigate the £120,000 each young person who is NEET costs the sate every year.

Demos has called on employers to think of this group as a ‘non-graduate talent pool’.

In a report published by the Foyer Federation, Demos recommends the jobseekers’ allowance system should be reviewed to ensure it does not disincentivise young people – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds – from undertaking work experience and internships.

It calls for the introduction of a ‘pay-back’ scheme for employers who provide high quality work experience for disadvantaged and at-risk young people and the introduction of a nation-wide internship network allowing companies to share experiences of working with disadvantaged young people

Internships were found to significantly increase an individual’s chances of employment by the Cabinet Office’s Panel on Fair Access to the Professions. The research by Demos found that young people with low qualifications were excluded from this crucial experience with many internships being aimed at university graduates.

In the new report, Access All Areas, Demos urges action to be taken to get disadvantaged young people into internships normally dominated by the middle classes.  A 2008 study found there was significant correlation between socio-economic background and the social status of work places indicating that work placements can compound the class divide.

Under the Demos scheme, financial rewards would be available only to employers offering quality placements that gave young people an opportunity to build their workplace skills.  A survey of 2,000 14-19 year-olds from earlier this year revealed that over half of respondents felt there were not enough good work placements available.

Julia Margo, director of Demos, said: "Internships are about who you know and what you know – you need contacts and qualifications. But they should be seen primarily as a way to learn.

"Getting at-risk young people into internships will go a long way to giving them the opportunities and aspirations open to middle class graduates – we should think of them as a ‘non-graduate talent pool’.

"More important than paying people to intern is making sure they learn the skills they need. A quality internship that pays only expenses is far more valuable than one that pays people a low wage to do menial jobs."

And Jane Slowey, chief executive of Foyer Federation, added: "We believe all young people should have the opportunity afforded through internships to identify, develop and promote their talents.  That includes the 10,000 young people using Foyers each year, whose aspirations to shape their lives in meaningful ways are not always met by the opportunities available to them.  For these young people, positive engagement through the workplace and community provide vital experiences to help them recognise their ability and navigate future transitions.

"Targeted investment in talent-building approaches can reap significant returns and benefits by helping young people and their services and communities to unlock unused potential.

"We hope more employers and funders will work with the Foyer Federation to invest in and benefit from the talents of young people from a broader range of backgrounds."