Tackling Youth Unemployment at Westminster Higher Education Forum

Virtual Internships has been a long-term supporter of Westminster Employment Forum and  Ed Holroyd Pearce, our President and Co-Founder, was delighted to attend an online conference at the end of April 2022 entitled: “Next Steps for Tackling Youth Unemployment and Improving Pathways Into Work.”

For long, previous work experience and in particular, internships, have reigned as the most important factor when potential employers in the US are vetting graduates. However, during a talk by Cristiana Orlando from the Institute for Employability Studies, Ed noted a familiar statistic that shows that this is now the case in the UK: previous work experience is the most important factor in gaining access to good work.

factors influencing access to good work


Reflecting on the UK’s Kickstart Scheme

The UK government’s Kickstart Scheme provides funding to employers to create jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit, in a bid to decrease the youth unemployment rate. 

Joshua Reddaway (Director, DWP Value for Money, National Audit Office) provided a report from the NAO/DWP on the Kickstart program. Overall, there were plenty of lessons to be learned, and a lack of reportable outcomes means the NAO/DWP simply doesn’t know if Kickstart provided value for money to the taxpayer. Nonetheless, the audience felt that there were many individual success stories. Of course, Virtual Internships is proud to have supported over 100 Kickstarters both internally and as a gateway, and to have converted many of them to full-time roles!

As always, Laura-Jane Rawlings was a delight to listen to as she reminded us how different and diverse the challenges are for today’s young people – one size doesn’t fit all! She is working towards Kickstart 2.0.


Uptake of Technology is Essential in Employability Solutions

Next up was, Rebecca Garrod-Waters (CEO of Ufi VocTech Trust) sang from the same hymn sheet as Virtual Internships when she emphasized that the use and uptake of technology is absolutely essential as a solution in employability solutions. In particular, for audiences who are neglected, overlooked, or not commercially attractive in the normal provision of employability services.

Rebecca reiterated the importance of focussing on the design of programs to ensure they meet the needs of learners, and also echoed much of Virtual Internships’ findings that building confidence is one of the most important elements of a program, alongside taking into account ‘the reality of work’ when working with learners and managing expectations.

The content of Rebecca’s presentation was refreshingly clear and on-point, and indeed Ufi VocTech Trust serves as a great role model for Virtual Internships as they have positively influenced over one million learners.

Zoom capture of Rebecca's presentation


More Interesting Topics at Westminster Higher Education Forum

The conference progressed with excellent content from Richard Rigby, who questions whether the UK is ‘stuck’ at 900,000 – the number of young people not seeking employment or education opportunities and has not fluctuated a great deal over past years despite many interventions.   

Graham Briggs from Greene King, which employs around 40,000 people, was inspirational in talking about programs they run for ex-offenders and supported internships for young people with SEND

The event rounded out with Philip Hunter from the City of Bradford who talked about the co-designed, locally-led program called Skills-house – this model, Philip believes, is more likely to provide non-stereotyped choices for learners. Ed was reminded very strongly of the program Virtual Internships has implemented for refugees in Lebanon by working with local partner organization, Kiron


Connect With Us For Employability Solutions Tailored To you

If you are interested in learning more about how we can help your organization and institution with an educational partnership, please reach out to Ed Holroyd Pearce: ed@virtualinternships.com 

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