THE BLOG

Six Ways Young People Think Job Centres Need to Change...

08/10/2015 10:12 BST | Updated 07/10/2016 10:12 BST

With youth unemployment stuck above pre-recession levels and the Government due to introduce a new Youth Obligation - the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at getting young people into work - YMCA went out and spoke to young people about the support they currently get and what they felt was needed to help them into work.

This is what those young people told us needed to change about the employment support available to them...

1. "I want the job centre to be a bit more understanding" - from Charlotte, in Norwich

Some put it down to the negative preconceptions of young people, many felt it was as a result of the limited time they got to spend with their work coaches, and others suggested it was the structure and format of the arrangements at job centres.

Whatever the reason, young people were clear that something needed to change to ensure they were seen by job centres as more than just numbers to be processed and that those staff working there were able to invest time to better understand and tailor their support to the circumstances they were facing.

2. "The job centre needs to really listen to young people to see what we want" - from Marcio, in Bedford

It was not only their circumstances that young people felt were overlooked by job centres, it was also their aspirations. Rather than be a system in which aspirations are encouraged and can be realised, too often young people told us that their goals were ignored and even quashed by job centres. Young people felt their career aspirations were put second to pressures on job centres to get them off benefits.

For job centres to improve their offer, it was felt that they needed to be focussed on young people's long-term futures and helping them build lasting careers, not merely providing short-term fixes and seeking to end their claims. It was believed this needed to start by giving young people the opportunity to share their aspirations with their work coaches and have these front and centre in their claimant commitments.

3. "The job centre doesn't help you to look for work; you just get a note you sign on and that's it" - from Liam, in North Tyneside

For those coming out of education, looking for work for the first time can prove a daunting experience. The lack of understanding and confidence in the process of looking for work was consistently raised as being a barrier to young people finding employment. The problems faced with confidence were compounded by the increasingly large number of job applications young people are making without any success or feedback.

The recently announced intensive activity programme could be a positive step, however, it is in the area of ongoing support where most young people feel the job centre is currently falling down. With employers largely unwilling to provide feedback on unsuccessful applications, young people felt that having regular opportunities to meet with their work coaches to go through their CV and completed applications, rather than just signing a form and then walking back out, would be beneficial in them gaining employment.

4. "The amount of times I've asked [the job centre] for help to go on courses and it's 'I can't help you'" - from John, in Derby

Given the importance that having the right skills and qualifications can play in securing employment, the perceived failure of job centres to help or even allow young people to access relevant training was understandably greeted with much frustration.

Job centres were frequently accused of not offering or signposting young people towards opportunities to train while on benefits. To overcome these issues of not being able to access training or being placed on inappropriate and irrelevant courses, young people felt they needed much more say in the training they engaged in to give them the best opportunities of finding work.

5. "A lot of it is about experience, but how is someone supposed to get a job if you don't give them the chance to get experience?" - from Jade, in Dartford

One of the most frequently raised reasons for the frustration felt by young people towards job centres focussed on the issue of work experience. As with training and qualifications, young people were clear how important having meaningful work experience was and it was this recognition combined with the inability of job centres to assist them in finding this that was the cause of much dismay.

Again, young people felt job centres should be doing more to listen and engage with them to identify and secure work experience placements consistent to their aspirations.

6. "Having someone there like a coach helping you back into work would be good" - from Nik, in Exeter

Finally, the frustrations felt by young people with job centres extended through to when they entered employment. Young people told us that little recognition was paid to the difficulties many of them faced when they first entered the workplace.

To address a situation whereby young people lose all support at such a critical period of their progression, young people told YMCA that having the option of accessing transitional support for the first few weeks after entering work would be a significant step forward.

Read YMCA's 'Safety Net or Springboard?' research here.