Hundreds of thousands of young people are being left on short courses to massage government figures on youth unemployment, experts have warned.
The employment experts said teenagers were being “churned” through basic qualifications that led in no particular direction but avoided them being classified as Neets – not in education, employment or training.
Official figures indicate there are almost one million 18- to 24-year-old Neets in England, but professionals working with them said the true number was closer to 1.5 million, the Times has reported.
Geoff Hayward, from the Economic and Social Research Council based at the University of Oxford, said: “It suggests to me we’re engaging young people in programmes, but these will be foundation courses that don’t necessarily support progression into a job.
“They get trapped into a churn – on a course for a short period of time then recycled back into the Neet population. These lower-level vocational qualifications don’t actually lead to jobs that pay more than if they didn’t take them at all. The term we use is ‘warehousing’.
“The argument is that if they had more skills they could get a job, but all it does is move them around in the job queue.”
Paul Fletcher, director of policy at Rathbone, a charity that provides training for the young unemployed, said initiatives to help Neets were not working.
“Government policy and initiatives are flawed. The Neet figures have remained fairly stubborn for the past 20 years, despite all the initiatives.
“The bigger issue is that we know there are significantly more Neets [than recorded]. Estimates by academics put the figure at half a million higher. The number of school leavers not in college and who aren’t working could be 50% more than currently known about.”
Fletcher added that the training courses were too short to have an effect.
He said: “In the main, they are just six months, which isn’t long enough to give a young person a realistic prospect of retraining and entering the labour market. The young people go in with good intentions, but they get to the end of the six months and fall off the end of the scheme into Neet status.
“By the second or third time that’s happened they lose faith in what’s on offer. The churn of initiative after initiative is massaging the Neet figures.”
The Department for Children, Schools and Families said: “We are keeping young people in education and employment through these tough economic times with the record sums we have invested. All training providers are subject to minimum levels of performance. If a provider falls below these minimum levels they can have their contract removed.”