institute for employment studies
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The New Deal for Young Unemployed People
Dewson S, Eccles J
a study for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations
This research was commissioned to explore and determine the experiences of young people on the Voluntary Sector Option (VSO) of the New Deal for 18-24 year olds. It aimed to assess the contribution that the VSO was making to the New Deal as a whole, and importantly, to ascertain the impact that participation in the New Deal was having on young people’s attitudes towards the voluntary sector per se. In order to contextualise the research, the opinions and experiences of young people across all the New Deal options were considered.
The research methodology adopted for this study was both quantitative and qualitative. During the first phase of the study, a small postal survey of young people who had recently started on their New Deal option was undertaken. In addition, a small number of focus groups were held to explore some of the research issues in greater depth. This primary phase allowed the early experiences of young people on the New Deal to be explored including the Gateway period and the New Deal Personal Adviser (NDPA) service.
The second part of the research incorporated a smaller postal survey with earlier respondents, some focus groups and a number of in-depth telephone interviews with young people who had completed, or were coming to the end of their time on, their New Deal options. The aim of this phase of the research was to examine the longer-term experiences of young people, and crucially, to assess the impact that participation in the voluntary sector option had had on young people.
The key findings arising from this study are multifarious. It seems clear that most of the difficulties and frustrations that young people experience occur in the early stages of participation in the New Deal. Concerns have been raised about the quality and availability of independent careers advice and guidance during the Gateway period and many young people reported that they had not received this type of help. In addition, many young people said that they had not received any in-depth assessment of their job-related skills and other ‘basic’ skills although they would have welcomed such an assessment. A further criticism of the Gateway centred around a lack of detailed information on the options available to young people under the New Deal and an (overly) heavy emphasis on finding a job rather than a longer term approach to planning for a career.
In relation to the VSO, the research has found that young people on this option are more likely to have spent longer in the Gateway than their non-VSO counterparts. They are also less likely to feel that they got the support they needed from their NDPA, and more worryingly, less likely to feel that they were directed to suitable training opportunities. Having said this, young people on the VSO were more likely to be motivated to take up this option for work-related reasons, that is, to gain real job experience and work-relevant skills. Generally, the research found that awareness and understanding of the voluntary sector prior to participation in the New deal option was low.
In many ways, the later phase of the research lessens the impact of the earlier findings. Most young people across all the New Deal options reported high levels of satisfaction with the programme. In the main, they felt that their work-related skills had improved and that their education or training was relevant to the type of work they wanted to do. Importantly, the majority of young people taking part in the research thought that they had received adequate support whilst taking part in the New Deal. Having said this, the number of young people moving into employment following the New Deal remained low and a significant proportion stated that they would have to undertake further education or training to move into the type of work that they wanted. In essence, the New Deal had not met the longer-term needs of some young people, although it may have moved them a step closer to doing so.
In relation to attitudes towards the voluntary sector, the research has found that participation in the VSO has had little impact on young people’s views regarding the sector. It remains that young people have not chosen to take part in the VSO in itself; rather they are choosing the vocational training that (incidentally) is being offered by organisations within the sector. An important opportunity to inform young people about the voluntary sector, and engender their support for it, is being missed.
The findings from this study give rise to a number of recommendations. Whilst the research has found that young people are generally satisfied with the New Deal, the study has highlighted some significant weaknesses. Most notably, it is important that young people:
Finally, the findings suggest that much more could be done to educate young people about the voluntary sector and to promote much greater allegiance to it. A more positive and proactive approach by providers of the VSO to achieve this end is recommended.
The New Deal for Young Unemployed People, Dewson S, Eccles J. , National Council for Voluntary Organisations, 2001.
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