The Employers’ Perspective

The next section considered the barriers employers face in recruiting new employees from a NEET background This section was specifically for those engaged in the delivery of construction related projects, 43 participants confirmed that this was the case. These included training providers and NEET support where they had a construction focus.  Results for this section were filtered to just this group.


Participants were first asked to select the area of work they were mainly involved in and their role with the following responses:





It should be noted that the high response rate from those in a senior management view may sway the responses towards more positive views. They may be considering the positive image engagement with NEETs would provide to their organisation.  For many NEETs, if they are able to secure employment in construction, they would more likely be working alongside skilled or semi-skilled operatives, where there were only five responses to the survey from skilled operatives, and none from semi-skilled. These may have differing views due to an unwillingness to take additional responsibilities in supervising and supporting NEETs, and the impact this could have on their time and productivity. The three that selected ‘Other’ were from a sector body, human resources, and a social value organisation. 


The first question related to non-apprenticeship roles in construction. As detailed in the literature review, (Fuller and Unwin, 2017; Buzzeo et al., 2016), apprenticeships can be unsuitable for many NEETS. 79% of respondents suggested that these roles exist. This is lower than the response given in section 2 where 97% considered there were roles suitable for NEETs. This difference may be due to the original responses including apprenticeships, indicating that employers are unaware of the barriers these present to some NEETs. That said, a majority felt that there are already suitable roles which raises the question, why are NEETs not securing them?


Those indicating they felt these roles existed were asked to clarify these. with the following suggestions:













In addition, 18 other roles each recommended once. These were generally trade specific such as hod carrier, forklift operator, plant operator, drilling, demolition, concreting as well as site office-based entry roles within different teams including document control and HR.


Participants were asked if they employ young people under the age of 24 in apprentice and non-apprenticeship roles, this provided the following responses:






When these results were filtered by either large or SME/micro/sole trader the results showed large employers more likely to recruit to these roles as opposed to SMEs and micro-employers, 92% of large employers having apprentices and 96% non-apprentices compared to 58% and 42% for SMEs/micro/sole traders. This may confirm the findings of the Pye Tate Consulting (2015) report which suggested SMEs have limited resources in regards to the recruitment and support of young people, compared to large organisations


The literature review identified NEET as a catch-all term encompassing young people with a wide range of issues. The next group of questions focused specifically on recruiting young people from a NEET background, Firstly, expanding on the underlying factors as identified by MacDonald and Shildrick (2011) to include other issues identified in the literature review, participants were asked which they felt could be supported within a construction environment, and as such should not be seen a barrier to recruitment. 


This showed that the main issues employers felt NEETs perceived as barriers were lack of experience, self-confidence or lack of academic qualifications. The responses suggest these are barriers employers see as supportable within the industry, along with gender, ethnicity, and a negative view of education all being selected by over 80% of respondents. This suggests that many of the factors identified by MacDonald and Shildrick (2011) as indicators of someone at risk of becoming NEET should not preclude them from entering the industry.


The main area of concern was drug/alcohol dependency and was generally felt that this was not a barrier that could be supported due to obvious health and safety implications. That said, it was suggested in the comments to this question, someone may be classified as an addict, but provided they were now clean, and remained so, it should not be an issue. 


Participants were also asked to expand on any of these issues and it was suggested that, just as NEET is a catch-all term, the barriers detailed also have underpinning levels of concern, with many NEETs being affected by more than one. It was highlighted that ill-health, mental health and disabilities could be supportable dependant on the type and severity of the issue, and ex-offenders can be employed, dependant on offence. One commented that reliability is an issue and felt that this was something that NEETs cannot cope with, while another stressed the importance of the soft employment skills necessary for NEETs to move into employment, as detailed in the literature review these could be a barrier to a NEET if they are unable to evidence them.


One respondent was concerned that, due to negative stereotyping in mainstream media, as identified in the literature review, being labelled NEET was itself a barrier.


‘I actually believe labelling this group as NEET is a barrier, due to the adverse publicity, public perceptions the term NEET is not helpful.’

Large Employer


That said, when respondents were asked what was the main influence of their views of NEETs only 17% selected mainstream media, 62% claiming it was based on professional experience


Respondents were asked if they felt their organisation would be open to recruiting someone from a NEET background, with 42 of the 43 respondents providing a positive response. They were also asked if their organisation already employ from this group, providing the following responses.



When this question was filtered between SME/micro/sole traders the number employing NEETs fell to 37%, opposed to 79% of large organisations. As with Figure/Table 11 above this may be linked to the lack of resources SMEs have to support young people. 


The survey next considered resources required, if any, to support an organisation in employing NEETs and 74% of respondents felt that construction companies already have the ability and resources required for this. It should be acknowledged here that over 50% of those completing this section were from a large organisation. When just the views of micro/sole traders were considered, this fell to 56%. That said, when asked what support their organisation would require if they were to recruit someone from a NEET background only 2 selected ‘none’. 65% felt that having a support worker available during the first 6 months would be the most beneficial, along with staff training (59%) and financial support to cover potential additional costs (44%). 


Participants also had the option to suggest other support with four comments, although two emphasised the benefit of a NEET supporting organisation. It was also suggested that a case history of the NEET could aid recruitment, and support, as well as a phased start to bring the young person in, along with support with benefits until they received their first wages, and a workplace mentor. Any support would come with a cost and options were given on where the funding should come from. The three most popular sources being central government (28%), the apprenticeship levy (23%) and the CITB levy (14%), no respondent felt that the employer should be required to fund this work. 


The final two questions in this section related to the inclusion of clauses and KPIs in public sector contracts as recommended by Chevin (2014). 67% agreed with the use of clauses, while 60% supported the idea of KPIs.  As highlighted in the literature review the Employment and Skills project on the Olympics surpassed all the KPI although NEETs were not included. In terms of the contractual clauses and KPIs it was commented that these can only be applied if funding and support was available to meet them, it also suggested they can become a double-edged sword, at risk of just becoming a tick box exercise, similar concerns were raised in the literature review. 


It was stated in the comments that while the sector needs to engage with NEETs, it does not have the resources necessary to support this, and as such must be open to assistance from external specialist organisations during initial phases of employment. It was also highlighted that a one size fits all approach would not be suitable due to the differing issues that prevent NEETs’ progression into employment. One respondent approved of the use of the apprenticeship levy but it was also suggested that the source of funding should be dependent on the barrier, or that it come from a combination of the sources. It was recommended that there needs to be improved training, leading to support roles, where they could gain the experience. This is one of the alternative options considered in next section.


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