Tackling Youth Unemployment – identifying young people at risk


First things first this is the last time that Ill use the word NEET (Not in Education, Training or Employment). Imagine being a 17 year old, leaving school and being labelled in the negative. It doesnt really say much for your future does it? How depressing…

Upon leaving school (regardless of age) young people enter into either a positive destination or they require support; careers information advice and guidance (IAG) to assist them through their learning journey. I use that term a lot, as I firmly believe that throughout our lives we all experience learning, regardless of setting. And yes, that does include employment.

High quality, impartial IAG is important in helping young people (and others) to make informed decisions about their pathways and future career choices. Careers IAG is a universal entitlement in Scotland – supporting all young people at any stage of career development, whether they choose to learn at school or college, or to develop their career management skills in a work-based or non-formal setting. Indeed, this is reinforced in both the Curriculum for Excellence entitlements and within the 16+ Learning Choices Policy and Practice Framework.

There is a need to re-assert the Government’s commitment to the provision of universal careers services, placing an emphasis on self-help – through developing people’s ability to manage their own career and through a multi-channelled, blended service, with face-to-face and more intensive support for those who need it most.
Most young people will access universal support from Skills Development Scotland during their school career, though others will require a more targetted approach, with early identification required so that resources can be deployed effectively. This process must start at least 12-16 months in advance of the statutory leaving age (in Scotland this is 16 years old) or whenever required by legislation as outlined in the ASL Act and Code of Practice.
An example of such assessment can be found within a risk matrix. The Risk Matrix aims to address the issue of those children and young people at risk. It highlights those most at risk by using a simple assessment technique that assigns a risk value to a number of the pupils attributes. These are configurable by each authority and when added together the resulting number is a quantitative risk assessment for that child. The status of the pupil is identified using colour coding with those most at risk coloured red. This is managed through the school/authority management information system.

The system should assist pastoral staff with the early identification of those pupils slipping towards a high risk category. Hopefully this will allow intervention at an earlier stage. The data is also shared (through the application of robust data sharing agreements) with other parties e.g. colleges of further education. This has the additional benefit of streamlining the post-school transition and is a basic principle of the 16+ Learning Choices Data Hub.

Information is automatically updated to the risk matrix on a nightly basis but can be re-imported at any time if required. Some of the criteria includes attendance; exclusions; post code; attainment; social work and other professional agency engagement; additional support needs and so on.
Of course, this isnt an exact science were talking about young people and they are the most significant variable in the known universe. By that, I mean to say that a young person may be at risk at 10am in the morning and by 2pm the level of risk has diminished, and vice versa. Criteria must never be used alone and so this must be backed-up by professional opinion ideally from a named person from within the school e.g. youth worker or pupil support teacher.

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Academic Staff University of Glasgow and Author of Science Fiction

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