Alternative Routes into the Industry

The final section of the survey asked participants to consider four alternative options to support the recruitment of NEETs into the industry. A short vignette described each and  based on the author’s previous experience on similar projects. 


The first option considered was paid work experience. As highlighted in the literature review issues faced by NEETs may mean they have not had previous work experience, or the opportunity to develop soft skills employers’ value, Newton et al. (2005). The second is employment and skills teams. These provide support to both NEETs and employers in the recruitment and through the early stages of employment and was recommended by Chevin (2014). Respondents were asked to consider support operative roles, NEETs working alongside skilled tradespeople, gaining an insight into the role, and supporting the development of the soft skills employers’ value. Lastly, short training courses in construction skills were considered. These cover basic skills training as an engagement tool to attract NEETs, with providers then offering support in securing employment in industry.


Each section consisted of four questions relating to the perceived benefit of each approach, with the exception of the employment and skills team who would not deliver training. In addition, participants were asked how each option should be funded. The following responses were received. 



These results support comments made in the previous section that a one size fits all approach is not suitable, the preferred option for each for the four questions has been highlighted for clarity. 


Most options scored highly, 84%+, with the exception of national and international short courses. In relation to the short courses most participants had not selected either yes or no. It has been assumed that those not selecting ‘Yes’ did not favour the option, and figures adjusted accordingly. A number of comments on in this section related to costs and funding. This was anticipated and respondents were given options on how each could be funded. For all four options the preferred source was Central Government.


‘The reason why I have consistently said that this should be funded by central government is that it is their education and social policy that has led to an increase NEET's.’




Comments were raised around the issue of the bureaucracy with state funding, suggesting this could become a barrier to engagement of NEETs, more so for SMEs lacking staff or experience in unpicking funding rules. 


To complete each option respondents were given the opportunity to add comments.


Intermediate Labour Market (ILM)


A number of positive comments were recorded for ILMs (survey questions 30-36), paid work experience, overseen by a placement officer who supports both the trainee and employer.  Some felt this would provide NEETs with an insight into the industry, with that experience making them more attractive to employers. It could also provide introductions to employers which, as identified in the literature review, can be barrier for many NEETs who sit outside word-of-mouth recruitment practices (Clarke and Hermann, 2007). The societal benefits were highlighted in supporting NEETs to move from benefit claimants to tax paying individuals. 


It was felt these would provide an opportunity for NEETs to demonstrate their willingness to work, learn, and develop personal skills which, as was suggested by some, is all industry looks for in new recruits. One respondent suggested that completion of the programme would give the individual something to be proud of, building self-confidence. The positives of the ongoing support were welcomed, one respondent stating they had run a similar project previously, delivering a 50% success rate, similar to those identified by Roberts et al. (2012). 


It was felt that this type of project would benefit industry, helping to address the skills shortages, as well as providing the opportunity to keep construction skills alive. It could provide employers with a’ try before you buy’ vehicle, giving confidence that, as previously suggested, the individual was committed. One respondent felt that this type of programme could help address barriers, such as gender, by encouraging individuals from under-represented groups to apply with the knowledge that there would be support during their placement. 


Concerns were raised as to whether this type of programme would be suitable for all organisations, with one suggesting that it would only suit larger companies. It was highlighted that smaller employers may not have resources to support the barriers that affected NEETs. This was supported by the view that skilled tradespeople may not have the skills or knowledge to be able to offer mentoring, and that it would have a negative impact on their productivity.  It was also suggested that this could result in a large throughput of applicants if individuals found the sector not to be suitable for them. This had been previously highlighted with the comment that employers should accept that 50% of new entrants would leave the programme early.


A number of concerns were raised over possible health and safety implications, claiming that this limits the work NEETs are able to undertake, with clients viewing young trainees as liabilities, although it was stressed that risk assessments mitigate this. As addressed in the literature review, the limits on the work young people can undertake are more the exceptions than the rule (HSE, 2019a). 


There were a number of comments regarding funding with some suggesting this is an expensive option, and that the bureaucracy involved would limit the uptake amongst SMEs. Others suggested that having a funded programme may encourage employer involvement, although some may view this as cheap labour. 


Employment and Skills Team (EST)


The second option was employment skills teams (survey questions 37-42), described in the survey as a team that liaises with contractors on a project in forecasting labour demands, identifying potential employment opportunities and sourcing and supporting applicants and employers.


Positive views of an EST included the impact a consistent and structured approach would provide employers, with a single point of contact helping to streamline engagement. This would address some of the concerns with the industry’s recruitment practices, helping to source suitable candidates in advance and ensuring they were work ready prior to meeting an employer. Having the opportunities identified early in order to identify and prepare new entrants for the roles, as well as the in-work support, would encourage recruitment. 


It was proposed that ESM teams should include those from a construction background, with an understanding of the employer’s needs, and the realities of work within the sector. As with ILMs, it was stated that this type of project would help address skills shortages and provide an opportunity to pass on skills. One comment highlighted the positive impact this team could have on corporate social responsibility and community engagement. 


Concerns included the time and money spent supporting a particular group, the London 2012 ESMs focused on a number of under-represented groups, although not NEETs. Another concern was that it would only suit large developments with funding available to employ the specialist team, London 2012 being a one-off. While it may suit large projects, it could be problematic with the type of short-term work carried out by many SME and micro employers. There was also a concern that employers, being risk averse, would not buy in, preferring to maintain current recruitment practices and would take convincing to change these. In terms of cost, this again was felt by some to be an expensive option, one comment suggesting that the London 2012 programme, while impressive, could have delivered more given the funding available.   


Support Operative


This option (survey questions 43-49) was described as similar to a ‘mate’, providing support to a tradesperson by undertaking the basic tasks, allowing them to concentrate on the skilled work. Similar comments were offered for this option as for ILMs and ESTs, that it provided a positive introduction to the industry, offered the opportunity to pass on skills and knowledge, and supported an understanding of work within the industry, as well as helping to address the skills shortage. 


Some respondents commented that these roles currently exist, or had previous experience of similar schemes, and that these had been successful; while other comments suggested that industry does not operate this way anymore. It was felt that this type of role could be beneficial within large teams and that using the ‘old mate system’ would allow new entrants to gain insight into the industry. A concern was that SMEs/micro businesses often offered these types of role to family and friends, through the word-of-mouth recruitment practice. As such there is the risk that NEETs would not be aware when they become available, as highlighted in the literature review.  That said, it was suggested that working alongside an experienced operative could provide NEETs, who have no connection to the industry, a first contact.


A major concern highlighted was the negative impact on productivity this type of role could have, along with additional costs relating to the employment of a support operative. It was commented that the skilled tradesperson would spend time supervising the support operative, impacting their own work. This may be alleviated where the support operative is part of a larger team, with a number of individuals supporting and supervising their work. There were also comments suggesting employers may not engage with new roles due to industry’s resistance to change and that these roles would not provide adequate support for NEETs. 


Short Course Training


This option (survey questions 50-56) proposed short training courses to engage those with barriers to employment, providing basic construction skills and health and safety, as well as ongoing employment support, and introductions to industry. Three alternatives were offered, local: training provided within a community in a non-traditional setting, national: bringing individuals together from across the country, and international: where the skills would be developed in mixed teams, small groups travelling overseas to train alongside others from the host nation. These types of programmes are often delivered by third sector organisations. 


Of the three options, local projects were preferred, with suggestions that this would gain support of local employers and projects. Along with the basic construction skills the embedding of employability skills and teamworking were identified as benefits, based on a respondent’s experience of similar projects. It was also suggested that these projects help build confidence, identified in the literature review as a significant barrier to employment for some NEETs (Kingston, 2017), potentially encouraging the individual to progress onto further qualifications, improving their employability. 


There were concerns with some of the main third sector providers of these types of courses, highlighting the lack of success rates and the difficulty in obtaining data from the organisations, as well as suggestions that the quality of training was poor.  It was implied that they are more interested in securing funding than achieving success. These comments come from two individuals, one of whom claimed experience in working alongside such providers. 

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