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Employment and training

Reform: one year on

A woman stands in the foreground wearing an orange Catch22 tshirt with a Catch22-branded fabric tote bag. In the background, people are taking part in a workshop. Overlaid is text that reads "Reform Agenda".

In September 2021, Catch22 embarked in earnest on its mission to tackle youth unemployment and underemployment by making it our Reform priority. One year on, our Director of Communications and Engagement, Melissa Milner, assesses how far we’ve come and why there’s still much more to be done.

When we committed to youth unemployment as our Reform priority, we were under no illusions as to the challenge we’d face. We knew it was impossible for us to achieve our aims alone, and we knew that progress would likely be incremental. We also knew that there were many factors beyond our control when it came to the youth job market, not least the political turmoil, the aftermath of the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Despite this, we were clear that there was a real need to try and reform the youth employment system. And we set out a plan for how we would, in our own small way, go about trying to influence policy and lead by example.

Starting at home

In the last year, Catch22 employability programmes have placed nearly 750 young people into work and many of those – like Lauren, who took part in our Digital Edge programme – are still in work six months on.

We have won awards for the quality of the employability programmes we deliver, and built new partnerships to enable us to support more people into work, including:

  • expanding our Horizons programme, which we believe is one of the only employability programmes to tackle both unemployment and underemployment, thanks to The Rothschild Foundation joining JP Morgan Chase & Co as co-funders,
  • forging a new partnership with TikTok to support young people to secure roles in the cultural and creative sectors, and
  • securing the Creating Opportunities Forum contract from the Home Office, in partnership with the Princes Trust and Apprentice Nation, to help young people at risk of falling into crime to access training and job opportunities.

And we’ve got exciting plans afoot! Thanks to funding from the Social Business Trust, we’re developing an app to help our employability programme participants access opportunities more quickly and effectively. And our new Social Tech Amplifier will be looking to support ventures in developing tech solutions to solve youth unemployment – more information coming soon!

Influencing policy

Delivering high quality employability services and working with new partners to expand our offer has also given us a great platform to begin to develop policy insights.

Over the last year, Catch22 has hosted an average of one event a month on youth employment topics. We have also launched our new podcast – Catch22 Minutes – with the first series focusing on youth employment. With events and episodes covering topics including first jobs, green jobs, traineeships and social mobility, we’ve had the privilege of working with brilliant individuals and organisations who have shared their experiences and challenged our thinking.

And, as we’ve become more vocal about promoting our approach to supporting young people into work, we’ve been invited to share our ideas with sector professionals and changemakers at Westminster Hall debates, the ERSA and Movement to Work conferences and more.

Catch22 is also a member of the Youth Employment Group, which now comprises more that 200 organisations working in and around the youth employment space. Having recently begun to co-Chair the Quality of Work subgroup with Youth Employment UK, we are putting together a practical resource which builds on YE UK’s Good Youth Employment Charter. This will help employers to put the charter into practice and develop policy asks around how quality of work can be improved for young people. We are proud to be collaborating on this work, which will enable even more organisations to work towards this common goal.

More to be done

In many ways the youth employment landscape is looking positive. The unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds is 10.8%. This is down from 11.2% in the previous quarter and down from 13.5% a year before.

Yet this is still more than double the overall unemployment rate, and we know young people are also disproportionately affected by underemployment.

It’s also clear that entry level roles in some of the growth industries – like green jobs and tech – are not always easy to come by. Routes into these industries for those furthest from the job market are lacking, causing potential workforce problems further down the line.

However, it is clear that there is momentum – and consensus – building around what needs to be done to make sure young people, whatever their background, are afforded the opportunity to secure not just any job, but a good job, and we are excited to be involved in developing solutions to solve these issues both on the ground, and with changemakers.

– Melissa Milner, Director of Communications and Engagement