When asked what they considered to be the main barriers to re-entering education, or finding employment, almost half (47 per cent) of the 1,000 out-of-work 16- to 24-year-olds surveyed in the University and College Union study said their lack of experience held them back, while a quarter (25 per cent) said they lacked confidence.
Other obstacles cited included a lack of suitable jobs (28 per cent), feeling insufficiently qualified (17 per cent), and financial factors such as the cost of childcare (13 per cent).
Around two-thirds of graduate respondents (62 per cent) said that lack of experience was a key problem for them, although the cost of attending university was not viewed as a major barrier to re-entering education or getting a job. Just 7 per cent of all those canvassed said that university tuition fees were “too high”.
Robin Simmons, professor of education at the University of Huddersfield, and an expert on the “Neet” phenomenon, said the report’s findings were “both disturbing and sobering”.
“[The results] clearly illustrate the negative consequences for the individual and society of being outside education and employment,” he said. “The research illustrates the corrosive effect that unemployment can have on a young person’s confidence, motivation, and their view of the future.”
Elsewhere, the survey – carried out by ComRes - found that a quarter of the Neets surveyed had been out of work, education or training for more than three years, with this figure rising to more than a half (58 per cent) among those with no qualifications.
Only 37 per cent of those who had been out of work for more than a year said that their education had provided them with the appropriate skills needed for working life.
“Most Neet young people do not have low aspirations and believe they can make a valuable contribution to society,” Professor Simmons continued. “Whilst some young unemployed people may well lack confidence this is often a result of negative labour market experiences and repeated negative experiences can cause their motivation to drop.”
UCU president, Simon Renton, said it was “truly heartbreaking” that so many young people were unable to contribute to society, despite their desire to do so.
“The individual human tragedy is only part of the story as young people outside education or work cost the country millions of pounds every year. We need to give our young people a commitment of proper guidance and stable, properly rewarded jobs, or educational opportunities,” he said.
“This will mean central and local government, employers, schools, colleges and universities working together. It will cost money, but the alternative is to consign hundreds of thousands of young people to the scrapheap and leave society to pick up the both the social and economic bills caused by their inactivity.”