The Found Generation are now a Supporter of the Fair Education Alliance

FEA logoWe are pleased to report that the Steering Group of the Fair Education Alliance (FEA) has formally approved The Found Generation’s application to join the FEA as an official “Supporter”. This approval was granted in August 2016.

The Fair Education Alliance is comprised of a coalition of Supporters and Members, among which we are now listed. These are all organisations which have joined together to drive action at a local and national level to make education and life chances fair for all young people.

We have joined the FEA as a Supporter because we wished to make a further contribution towards their goal of achieving a fairer and more equal education system. As the FEA point out: “Education in the UK is not fair. Young people from low income communities are much less likely to succeed than their wealthier peers. This impacts negatively on a young person’s ability to achieve the health, happiness and career they aspire to. This also impacts the economy – if the UK raised the educational outcomes for poorer children, GDP would increase by £6bn a year by 2030 and by £56bn a year by 2050.

The Fair Education Alliance is not prepared to accept the status quo and is committed to leading the fight against educational inequality.”

The FEA has set out a set of five “Fair Education Impact Goals” which all Members and Supporters have signed up to work towards achieving by 2022. These encompass five transformational changes which would substantially reduce educational inequality and ensure that more children get a fair chance in education.

  • Narrow the gap in literacy and numeracy at primary school
  • Narrow the gap in GCSE attainment at secondary school
  • Ensure young people develop key strengths, including character, emotional wellbeing and mental health, to support high aspirations
  • Narrow the gap in the proportion of young people in education, employment or training one year after compulsory education
  • Narrow the gap in university graduation, including from the 25 per cent most selective universities.

Although The Found Generation is not solely focused on education, there are some significant overlaps between the FEA’s work and ours. The issue of educational inequality is relevant to our wider purpose of tackling youth unemployment and preventing a “lost generation” of unemployed young people.

Further, one of our main goals is campaigning for politicians to improve the education system, in particular to ensure that young people are better prepared for the workplace and adult life generally. Indeed our Manifesto for Youth Employment from 2015, and subsequent publications, contained a number of recommendations on improving the education system which are relevant to the FEA’s work, including on literacy and numeracy, careers advice, work experience, and development of character and employability skills.

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Response to Baroness McGregor-Smith review

Earlier this year, Sajid Javid MP, then Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, appointed Conservative peer Baroness McGregor-Smith CBE to conduct a review for the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills into the issues faced by businesses in developing black and minority ethnic (BME) talent and progression in the labour market, from when they are recruited and start work through to executive or senior level.

This review was intended to build on previous work done by the Government on improving opportunities for BME people, including their ‘BME 2020‘ plan which is aimed at improving labour market outcomes for those from BME backgrounds. As part of the BME 2020 plan, Government Ministers from across government are aiming to achieve a number of goals including:

  • increasing the proportion of apprenticeships taken up by young people from BME backgrounds by 20%;
  • increasing the number of BME students going to university by 20%; and
  • ensuring that 20,000 start-up loans are awarded to BME applicants by 2020

Baroness McGregor-Smith’s review included a consultation and call for evidence. The Found Generation submitted a response to this consultation, from the point of view of young people from a BME background, covering BME young people who are out of work as well as those in work. Our primary submissions were focused on what the Government can do to support BME young people, with examples of both general and ‘targeted’ policies on a range of areas such as mentoring, apprenticeships, careers advice and reversing recent increases to university tuition fees and changes to maintenance grants for poorer students. Our response includes input and quotes from a number of our young volunteers from BME backgrounds.

We hope that Baroness McGregor-Smith, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (which the review is now reporting to) and the new Government generally will all take our proposals in this area seriously, as improving outcomes for BME young people is critically important to the success of any strategy for BME people generally. After all, there is limited point in the review focusing solely on progression of BME people in work when the high levels of BME youth unemployment suggests that huge numbers of BME young people face a struggle to find work in the first place.

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Intergenerational fairness and the EU Referendum – our initial reaction

Just a few weeks ago, on 23 June 2016, over 33 million voters across the United Kingdom cast their votes in a referendum on whether or not the UK should remain a member of the European Union, or to leave it. The result of the referendum, announced the next day, indicated a narrow but clear victory for Leave, with 17.4 million votes (52% of the vote) against 16.1 million votes (48% of the vote) for Remain, on a 72% turnout.

The unexpected vote, for what is now often referred to as ‘Brexit’, has upended our political establishment, causing the resignation of our Prime Minister, David Cameron MP; the appointment of a new Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, and the formation of a new Government by her; and the triggering of a leadership contest by Labour MPs in respect of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MP. It has also generated some uncertainty economically and in our society more generally in the aftermath of the vote. There have also been some reports of a worrying increase in racist attacks and incidents being documented.

We at The Found Generation did not take an official position on the EU referendum, as we are a cross-party organisation focusing on tackling UK youth unemployment, and the young people involved in our campaign have a wide range of views on the EU. Our focus was, and is, on how we can tackle youth unemployment and prevent a ‘lost generation’ of young people, regardless of whether we stay in the European Union or leave it. Our focus in the aftermath of the referendum result is therefore on young people and how they will be affected by the result.

The result in favour of leaving the EU has led to widespread disappointment, disillusionment and even anger among many young people. This has even led to claims by some young people that those who voted Leave (predominantly older people) have ‘stolen their future’, for example by potentially depriving them of their current rights to live and work in other countries in the EU, preventing them from taking advantage of schemes like Erasmus, and causing uncertainty which could undermine the economy and limit their career opportunities (see e.g. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/26/young-people-vote-anger; http://covi.org.uk/project/a-generation-apart-an-analysis-of-young-peoples-attitudes-to-europe/).

Such reactions, of course, do not fully reflect reality. For example, the UK remains an EU member until we formally leave after reaching an agreement with the EU under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – a process which could take some years. You do not need to be a citizen of an EU member country to take advantage of the Erasmus scheme, as non-EU countries such as Norway, Switzerland and Turkey also participate in it. And while the economy appears to be dealing with some uncertainty and some significant challenges after the result, many of the most dire and hyperbolic warnings of the Remain campaign and their allies do not appear to have been borne out (for example, the ’emergency budget’ which former Chancellor George Osborne MP suggested would be necessary after Brexit seems to have disappeared into the ether).

These sort of reactions also do not take full account of the detail of the referendum campaign and the result, including the fact that a) many young people voted Leave, b) many older people voted Remain, and c) that those who voted Leave (including many in my own family) did not do so because they wanted to reduce opportunities for young people, but because they thought it was the best (or least worst) way to vote in a difficult, complex referendum, with few certainties and few clear facts to pick from. Indeed the campaigns on each side of the argument both appeared determined at times to want to avoid providing voters with the best possible facts, evidence and arguments to choose from (whether that was the Remain campaign’s scaremongering on the economy e.g. the ’emergency budget’, or the Leave campaign’s scaremongering on immigration e.g. on Turkey joining the EU).

However, it is worth looking at how these reactions arise. It is impossible to ignore the fact that of the young people who voted in the referendum, the evidence available suggests the majority voted for ‘Remain’, while the majority of older people tended to vote for ‘Leave’ – and that the older you were, the more likely you were to vote Leave rather than Remain (see e.g. http://covi.org.uk/project/a-generation-apart-an-analysis-of-young-peoples-attitudes-to-europe/; http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/24/meet-the-75-young-people-who-voted-to-remain-in-eu). The reaction is also driven by a number of other factors, including the fact that young people have grown up with the EU and have never known anything different, the fact that older people vote in much greater numbers than young people and did so in this referendum (why young people do not vote in bigger numbers is a much wider issue which there is no room to deal with in this article), and other concerns such as the failure to allow young people aged 16-17 to vote in this referendum.

These reactions are also caused to a large extent by much wider and larger problems and challenges for young people, often summarised under the banner of “intergenerational unfairness”. In areas like housing, employment, education and public spending generally, there is a growing concern that younger people (or younger generations) are losing out both financially and otherwise to older, better-off generations, who are ‘banking’ the opportunities and support that they received, but preventing younger generations from accessing those same opportunities. The EU referendum has significantly strengthened these concerns.

Are these concerns valid? Is there a problem with intergenerational unfairness in the UK? In short, yes. In 2016, young people in the UK are far more likely to be unemployed than their older counterparts; housing prices and rents are becoming increasingly expensive and unaffordable for younger people, to the extent that many are living with their parents for longer, and that many will be unable to buy their first property until they are well into their 30s (particularly if they are buying without assistance from their parents); and the current generation of young people may now be the first generation to earn less than their predecessors over the course of their working lives (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36821582). The ever lengthening periods in which this generation of young people will have to work before they become eligible for the state pension (68 in my case: https://www.gov.uk/state-pension-age) and less generous pensions and pension schemes are also potentially storing up significant problems for the future – when our young people become older people.

One of the most interesting features of the referendum has been what the vote to Leave has shown us about our society. It has not only shown that we have a much more significant problem with inequality in our society generally than many realised – with a notable correlation between many areas which voted Leave and how much less well off those areas were than areas which voted Remain – but it has also thrown a whole new emphasis on the growing debate around intergenerational unfairness. Although these problems – namely inequality between different parts of the country and inequality between older and younger people – are both serious problems for the new Prime Minister and her new Government, it is perfectly possible for the Government to start to fix them, with the appropriate political will and the best policy ideas.

We will continue to push the new Government to implement practical, realistic, evidence-based policies with cross-party support to tackle youth unemployment. However, we will now also pay much closer attention to the wider debate around intergenerational unfairness, how this relates to our work and how we can contribute to it, particularly in light of Brexit. This fits well within our mission of tackling youth unemployment and preventing a lost generation of young people. Indeed we have already started to pay closer attention to this debate. On 29 June 2016 we were invited to speak at a meeting of the Intergenerational Foundation (www.if.org.uk), an independent, non-party-political charity that exists to research fairness between the generations in order to protect the rights of younger and future generations in British policy-making. We were delighted to be invited to speak to them at their first meeting after the referendum and to discuss the work The Found Generation does, as well as the impact of the referendum on young people, why voter turnout is lower among young people and how to respond to the referendum. We hope to work closely together in future on issues of youth employment and intergenerational fairness. We are entirely in agreement with their central argument that government policy and spending must be fair to all generations – including not just those who are older, or younger, but also future generations who are still to come.

We also welcome the creation of the Resolution Foundation’s Intergenerational Commission (http://www.intergencommission.org/), launched recently in London, and we would be happy to get involved in this however possible. We are delighted that there is such a wide range, breadth and depth of experience, individuals and organisations involved in the Commission, as members or on the Technical Panel, including David Willetts (who was one of the first politicians to really ‘get’ the issue of intergenerational fairness), as well as the CBI, TUC, Bank of England, Intergenerational Foundation and many others. We are also delighted that the Commission has been set up in the first place – as it is a timely and important response to a critical issue – and that the Commission appears to recognise that fixing issues of intergenerational unfairness may be as important as securing a successful exit for the UK from the EU (http://www.intergencommission.org/blog/renewing-the-intergenerational-contract-could-be-as-important-to-future-generations-as-a-successful-eu-exit/).

However, the way the Intergenerational Commission has been set up is just further proof of the need for a group like The Found Generation, and why we are still relevant four years after our creation in 2012. Our purpose is and has always been to campaign as a cross-party group of young people, on behalf of young people, in relation to youth unemployment, and to ensure that young people are properly represented in relation to debates and discussions which concern them. Yet, of the members of the Commission, none appear to be a young person, or in any way representative of or able to speak for young people. There is also a similar lack of representation on the ‘Technical Panel’ supporting the Commission (http://www.intergencommission.org/about/), with only one young person that we are aware of (David Kingman of the Intergenerational Foundation) on the Technical Panel.

One of the reasons we have high youth unemployment and significant intergenerational unfairness is that young people are not properly consulted on or involved in discussions or decisions about their own future. For an Intergenerational Commission, which is intended to promote fairness between the generations, and in particular to promote greater fairness and opportunity for younger people, it is a mistake to have so little representation from the younger generation you are trying to help. When young people continue to be shut out of initiatives like this, is it any wonder that they feel disillusioned and do not feel like they are being listened to?

So our first substantive effort in responding to Brexit and the growing intergenerational fairness debate will be a small but significant one – to campaign for any and all initiatives which are relevant to young people, whether relating to intergenerational fairness, Brexit or other issues, to have young people represented on or involved with them. This should start with the Resolution Foundation’s Intergenerational Commission, who we will be writing to shortly on this subject.

The young people involved in the Commission or other initiatives could be volunteers from our organisation and could bring our four years of campaigning, research, engagement with young people and politicians and our expertise on and personal experience of youth unemployment (as well as wider issues such as housing). Or they could be from other organisations such as Youth Employment UK, the British Youth Council or some of the many other youth-led organisations around the country.

We will also look at this more generally – for example we are very interested in COVI’s call for the Government to run a public consultation to ask young people for their views on Brexit (http://covi.org.uk/project/a-generation-apart-an-analysis-of-young-peoples-attitudes-to-europe/), which fits in with our call for a Minister for Youth Employment with a specific responsibility to consult young people on key decisions.

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APPG on Youth Employment meeting on barriers facing young women

 

The Found Generation intern Albana Istrefi (left of picture) with attendees of the APPG’s June 2016 event, including Michael Tomlinson MP (centre) and Laura-Jane Rawlings, CEO of Youth Employment UK (right)

On 29 June 2016 one of our young volunteers, Kingston University student Albana Istrefi, attended a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Employment (which we advise and support) on behalf of The Found Generation.

The meeting was on the subject of ‘Women and girls inequality’ and the barriers that women, particularly young women, face in the labour market, whether they are working or economically inactive. The event, which included a contribution from the Young Women’s Trust, discussed a number of issues including the possibility of women benefiting from different courses, from coaching, and from going into areas such as engineering where they are under-represented. It was also suggested at the meeting that ‘flexible working’ could become more of a “norm”, in particular to ensure that pregnant women or women that are expecting children will not be left behind.

More information will be available in due course on the APPG’s website but you can also see Albana’s thoughts on the event in the YouTube clip below:

N.B. For those who may be interested, Albana is undertaking an internship with The Found Generation during her summer holiday from university, via the successful Student Hubs Social Impact Internship Scheme, which placed her with us. Albana is now the third intern we have taken on through the Internship Scheme over the past few years, and our involvement in the initiative shows our commitment to get a wide range of socially conscious young people involved in The Found Generation, as well as to promote youth employment and opportunities within our own organisation as well as on a national basis.

Indeed, Albana’s predecessors under the Social Impact Internship Scheme, Emma Selinger and Florence Bates (both summer 2014), were co-authors of our comprehensive Manifesto for Youth Employment, and thanks in part to the opportunities, training and support we gave them, both subsequently went on after completing their university courses to obtain paid opportunities with Challenge Partners (Emma) and the TUC (Florence) respectively.

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Impetus PEF Youth Jobs Index

We are now just over a year on from the May 2015 general election and we will shortly be preparing an assessment of how the new Government has been doing on youth employment, especially when compared against the Manifesto for Youth Employment we published just before the election last year.

However new research published last week by Impetus PEF shows just how far we still have to go to tackle youth unemployment. Impetus PEF have prepared a Youth Jobs Index which draws on nationally published figures on the UK’s 7 million 16-24 year olds and has found that 1.3 million young people are spending six months or more not in education, employment or training (NEET), and that 700,000 are NEET for more than a year. Much of this is down to insufficient qualifications, with many NEET young people not even having ‘Level 2’ qualifications.

What the research also finds is that 2 million 16-24 year olds in the UK are ‘underemployed’ (for example by being overqualified for the job they are doing or wanting to work more hours they are currently working). When combined with the NEET figures mentioned above that accounts for a shocking number of the UK’s young people being either NEET or underemployed.

This Index will be produced every year and we hope it will be a valuable reminder to the Government of the work that still needs to be done.

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