Although most countries have begun to recover from the global financial crisis its shadow continues to blight the aspirations of young people all over the world as they try to find a place for themselves in the labour market.

The European Commission’s Review of Employment and Social Developments underlines the challenge. Whilst it reports a positive EU-wide trend in job-creation and rising overall employment, it notes that levels of youth unemployment remain stubbornly high at over 20%.  Separately, the International Labour Organisation’s World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends for Youth paper predicts ongoing high levels of youth unemployment globally. 

The barriers that young people face to get a leg-up into the labour market have been well documented over the years. They include a lack of qualifications and relevant experience, the prevalence of temporary, over permanent job contracts in many countries (including in the growing ‘gig-economy’) and limited access to apprenticeships and training programmes. Launched in 2013, the EU’s Youth Guarantee initiative scheme has gone some way towards tackling this issue. Over 9 million young people have taken up offers of apprenticeships, traineeships, further education or employment through the scheme.

Ingeus strongly supports such initiatives. Our extensive global experience of delivering employability and training programmes has taught us the value of trying new approaches to help disadvantaged jobseekers. For young people, this means providing opportunities not only to work, but also to gain ‘soft’ skills such as empathy, team-working, time-keeping and communication – things that employers tell us they particularly value. These skills are transferable and highly adaptable, giving young people an edge in the long-term as they navigate increasingly fast-moving labour markets.

In the UK, Ingeus Youth Services is achieving exactly this for over tens of thousands of 16 and 17 year-olds through the National Citizen Service (NCS). This government-backed programme encourages young people to build new strengths and behaviors through immersive outdoor residential activities, skills-building workshops and community projects.  Ingeus made extensive use of customer insight to help the programme hit is mark and employed two 17 year-olds to help design the content and activities. Engaging and listening to end users to co-create new services makes a positive difference.  92% of young people completing NCS say it has helped them develop useful skills for the future. One NCS graduate who has since joined Ingeus as a mentor, said:

“For young people, it’s probably the first time in their lives that they are given the power to create change and be independent…I’ve learned the importance of individuality, recognising that you’re in charge of your own decisions; and empathy, standing in another person’s shoes and seeing their outlook on life.”

Whilst NCS builds young people’s skills and boosts CVs, it is not currently designed to be a conventional employability programme. Over time, this may change by reconfiguring it to act as a springboard into apprenticeships and training programmes - putting young people on a firmer track to lasting employment.

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