Young people in Britain are suffering disproportionately compared to other European countries, since the economic crisis set in. Unemployment for 16-24 year olds in the UK is scandalously high and the Work Scheme appears to be unable to reduce it substantially.
At 21%, unemployment among young people in the UK is higher than many European countries. In comparison with Germany (8.1%) and the Netherlands (9.4%), a large gap can be identified. Policy Exchange say that Britain must ask what we are doing wrong or what Germany and the Netherlands are doing better. According to the think tank the main difference is the educational system and calls for a reform.
Flaws in the education system are to blame
Policy Exchange believes that the current education system does not increase the employability of students. A poll undertaken for this report shows that young people agree that “there is too much focus on academic learning in our schools, and not enough on practical job-related training”. As a result students that are not performing well at school decide to drop out at A-level, this costs £300m per year to the taxpayer.
The think tank proposes a switch over to a highly developed technical-vocational education system, similar to the one applied in European countries with low youth unemployment. They back up their argument by quoting research which has shown that:
“Practically-oriented courses of study at lower secondary level such as those with an apprenticeship element, entail clear benefits of student engagement, retention and positive attitudes towards education”.
Employers will be more involved in the educational system through having an opinion in school curriculum. Also apprenticeships will be “redefined in stronger and clearer terms as an intensive three-year programme.”
Labour market relevance
This means that education will have more labour market relevance, as students will learn the skills that match the employer’s requirements making them more likely to get a job. In addition following the successful European examples, there needs to be “strong advice and guidance” as well as “flexible progression options including back into academic routes”.
England has already a well-performing technical and vocational provision, offered in some schools and University Technical Colleges. According to them, in order for the system to function in the interests of students the government should “offer an alternative route through the current educational system.”
Policy Exchange does not suggest an exact replication of what is offered in Germany or Denmark, acknowledging the differences in the labour market structure and flexibility.
However they believe that an efficient technical-vocational education system can be a way to avoid having a lost generation, as young people when they finish school they will have already acquired skills that will make them employable in the market.
By Sotiris Kanaris