“Today we have yet more evidence this government is delivering on its commitment to get all young people either learning or into work,” said Skills Minister Nick Boles today.

The number of 16- to 18-year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEET) in England between April and June is at its lowest since records began in 2000, according to official figures reveal today.

The Government are asserting that the quarterly figures are the latest indication it is succeeding in its drive to abolish youth unemployment and ensure all young people are either earning or learning.

The figures show falls across all age categories, with the overall proportion of young people NEET at its lowest for the period in over a decade. Compared to 2010, there are 75,000 fewer 16- to 24-year-olds NEET for this period.

Government figures show that, since 2011, overall NEET rates have consistently fallen for the April to June period, with 2.3 million apprenticeships in the last Parliament and the establishment of a more respected professional and technical education system cited as the main catalysts.

Nick Boles MP

Conservative MP Nick Boles

“Today we have yet more evidence this government is delivering on its commitment to get all young people either learning or into work,” said Skills Minister Nick Boles, confident that the figures show that the Government’s strategy is producing results, whilst recognising that there is more work to be done. “While the proportion of young people NEET is at its lowest for this time of the year since 2004, we will not stop there. Our focus remains firmly on equipping all young people with the skills they need – not least through our pledge to deliver 3 million new apprenticeships in this Parliament.”

Today’s figures appear to show the proportion of 16- and 17-year-olds participating in education or training reached its highest level since consistent data began, having risen 10.9 percentage points since 2000. All young people in England are now required to continue in education or training until at least their 18th birthday, under the ‘raising the participation age’ (RPA) requirement.

The figures show that the proportion of:

  • 16- to 18-year-olds who were NEET had fallen by 0.6 percentage points to 7.5%, a fall of 11,000 to the lowest level since 2000 when consistent data began
  • 16- to 24-year-olds who were NEET had fallen by 0.4 percentage points to 13.1%, down 23,000 and at its lowest level since 2004
  • 19- to 24-year-olds who were NEET had fallen by 0.3 percentage points to 15.7%, a reduction of 12,000 on last year

In spite of the Government’s positivity, there are some who feel less assured about the opportunities currently available to young people. Kirstie Donnelly, UK managing director of City & Guilds, said: “It’s positive to see a fall in NEET numbers across all age groups, and I imagine many will cheer these figures. But the reality is that more than 15 per cent of young people are still out of work and not in education or training. On top of last week’s disappointing unemployment figures, this remains incredibly concerning.”

Kirstie Mackey, Head of LifeSkills created with Barclays, appeared to echo Donnelly’s comments in a statement released on NEET figures today, saying, “Although the number of young people not in employment, education, or training continues to fall, the cumulative number is still unacceptably high. We need greater urgency in delivering employability skills, and offering real, quality work experience for young people to discover what it’s like in the workplace.“

The government has undertaken a number of reforms since 2010 to engage young people over the age of 16, including:

  • raising the age of participation in education or training to 18
  • improving the quality of vocational education so that it is increasingly seen as a proper alternative route
  • ensuring minimum standards for apprenticeships, and announcing legal protection to put them on an equal footing with degrees
  • introducing degree-level apprenticeships to offer in-work training with university-class qualifications
  • introducing traineeships to help young people into apprenticeships and other routes

The Government’s release of these figures comes after yesterday’s GSCE results, in which the number of students achieving A* to C grades rose by 0.1 percent on the previous year.

“The media today will rightly celebrate the achievements of young people in their GCSEs, and for many people, today marks a first step towards achieving the career they want,” said City & Guild’s Kirstie Donnelly, “Yet at the same time, scores of teenagers remain in danger of falling through the cracks. At the heart of this is a consistent failure to prepare young people for the workplace of the future and train them for the jobs that actually exist in their areas. We need to get far better at using labour market information and up-to-date data on skills gaps to shape careers advice, in order to make the term ‘NEET’ a thing of the past.”