Kent Charity CXK Examines the Barriers to Youth Employment in Thanet

Thursday 29th June 2017

New research just released by CXK highlights what barriers are preventing young people in Thanet from accessing employment, with mental wellbeing cited as a key factor  

The research was conducted over the course of a year by Kent-based charity CXK’s Talent Match programme, and was commissioned to examine the stubbornly high youth NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) figures in the Thanet area. Thanet is home to 5 of the most economically deprived wards in Kent, and currently contains one of the highest NEET figures in the county.

The research project was launched in summer 2016, and examined several groups of NEET young people in the Thanet area. The young people took part in a series of workshops designed to examine various elements of their environment including family support, career aspirations and the career support available, in an effort to understand what barriers were preventing their access to employment.

The research found that a lack of social networks, in the form of family and friends, was a key barrier to young people being able to seek and secure meaningful work, with 90% of participants stating that they had no contacts relevant to their career aspirations.

A lack of access to careers guidance between the ages of 14-17, and minimal or irrelevant exposure to employers, was found to have had a detrimental effect on the work readiness of those surveyed. Many young people reported that school work experience placements had been insignificant in terms of their duration and frequency; and were unrelated to their personal career aims.

Researchers found that a lack of confidence was a key issue; with many young people struggling to build the confidence to make calls and manage interviews. 88% of respondents cited a lack of self-esteem and personal confidence as significant hurdles to finding and sustaining employment. Furthermore, young people’s confidence in their local area was weak, with the majority of respondents uncertain or nervous about their future in Thanet. Only 19% indicated a confidence in the future employment prospects available in the area.

Most notably, mental wellbeing was identified as the prime barrier to EET (Education, Employment or Training), and researchers found that there was little evidence to suggest that mental wellbeing was being directly addressed. 60% of those interviewed scored lower than the national average on the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale.

However, participants cited strong links with local support services including CXK, KATO and The Prince’s Trust, with 70% listing the support of these organisations as ‘important’ to them obtaining work.

The research findings were released at a launch event at The Turner Contemporary, Margate on Thursday 22 June; and delivered to an audience of 50 local stakeholders, including representatives from Kent County Council, KATO and The Prince’s Trust.

Lead Practitioner, Andrew Dennis, commented. “This research highlights the very real difficulties faced by young people in Thanet who do not have the connections, confidence in themselves or social networks that are vital to their success in finding a job.

“We now need to look at how we use these findings to improve the possibilities open to Thanet’s youth. In particular, we must increase the exposure they have to employers, which can be achieved through better school and agency engagement with employers in the region; and ensure that careers programmes and projects are better aligned to the needs of employers.”

Pauline Smith, CEO of CXK, added; “A more widespread use of mentoring programmes that help people to build confidence, such as travel training and confident communication sessions, would make a significant difference to the youth of Thanet. We also need an increased focus on equipping organisations with the skills to support the complex mental health and wellbeing requirements of our young people. CXK is committed to delivering our findings to relevant local organisations, who we will endeavour to work with to help make the improvements needed.”

Funded by The Big Lottery and managed in partnership with The Prince’s Trust, the research was commissioned by CXK’s Talent Match; a mentoring programme which works with unemployed 18-24 year olds across Medway, Swale, Thanet and Dover. A summary of the findings is available at here