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UK should learn from US on youth employment

The UK could learn from the US on improving opportunities for young people entering employment, according to a Centre for Cities report.

The report, Youth Opportunity; Lessons on improving young people’s employment prospects from US cities, states that the most successful US cities have “high levels of employer engagement and direct involvement from employers.” 

“Successful collaborations also have strong leadership; shared and measurable goals; support from an intermediary organisation; and monitoring and evaluation systems that encourage continuous engagement and best practice sharing,” the report stated. 

It said that greater youth employment activity within private businesses in the US compared to the UK was down to the fact that “spending on welfare in the US means that private citizens and philanthropic organisations play a more significant role in funding workforce development or employment support activities.” 

US cities’ “greater fiscal autonomy compared to UK cities” also played a role, “giving them greater flexibility and more room to innovate".

The report recommended that businesses should get involved with, and where appropriate lead, the design and delivery of youth employment initiatives, and develop work experience and work-based learning programmes in collaboration with schools and other learning providers.

Key recommendations for combined authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the UK included:

  • Ensuring strong local leadership is in place to bring cross-sector leaders together
  • Using evidence and employer engagement to establish a narrow set of clearly-defined and shared goals
  • Leveraging a more diverse set of funding streams, including private sector investment
  • Designating an intermediary body to foster public-private relationships 
  • Sharing data and monitoring programme performance in an open and transparent way

Recommendations for UK government included: 

  • Devolving commissioning of the post-2016 Work Programme and any subsequent youth employment programmes to cities
  • Committing long term to establishing partnerships to improve outcomes for young people
  • Supporting evaluation of the most promising city initiatives to assess whether they should and can be replicated elsewhere
  • Improving cities’ access to quality labour market intelligence by investing in research and real-time databases, and by sharing more administrative data 

Centre for Cities is a research and policy institute, dedicated to improving the economic success of UK cities.

The Youth Opportunity report was compiled through interviews with around 150 city and national policymakers and practitioners in eight US cities including New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Pittsburgh.