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Researching the experiences of those Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET)

Voluntary Action Leeds (VAL), Young Lives Bradford and Wakefield Young Lives completed a research project that engaged with 315 young people to share their experiences of Not being in Employment, Education or Training (NEET).

The Young Lives NEET research has been a project to enable young people to share their views on:

  • The barriers they face in finding employment or appropriate training/education
  • How being NEET can impact on their personal life
  • What is the best type of support to enable NEET young people to find employment, education or training.

Jenny Dobson, Funding Officer from Big Lottery, has said:

“Through this piece of research Young Lives Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield have given young people across West Yorkshire a voice. Young Lives have set out a hard hitting partnership approach giving young people the opportunity to see themselves as influencers – working with those voluntary and local businesses to help address barriers faced by NEET young people across West Yorkshire. This detailed research will help create a shared understanding of young people’s concerns together with the support and services they need – and more importantly help young people to remain engaged and realise their full potential”

The Report

The report was written and researched by Gary Blake and Cuchulainn Sutton-Hamilton of Voluntary Action Leeds, in partnership with a number of key organisations across Leeds. More than 70 young people aged 16-25 took part in this research, attending focus groups to talk about their experiences of being NEET in the city.

The Research

This research is based predominantly on the findings of 12 focus groups and a feedback event. These conversations were recorded, transcribed word for word and analysed thematically over a number of months. The faultless level of commitment from the team allowed for large amounts of qualitative and numerical data to be included, making the report a significant insight into the lives of the young people.

Quotes from the young people are at the centre of the research, with the word-for-word transcriptions maintained, to represent the authentic voices of the young people involved. The quotes included in the report have been very carefully selected from a list of hundreds, discussing issues such as mental health, being skint and trying to navigate the working world with multiple barriers.

“You don’t have experience but you can’t get a job unless you have experience and you can’t get experience unless you have a job”

“I applied for a hundred retail jobs when I was on Job Centre and I didn’t get replies from any of them”


The following are some of the themes that came out of the research process:

  • What jobs are young people looking for?
  • Apprenticeships
  • Barriers to becoming engaged in employment, education or training
  • Being out of work ‘too long’
  • Lack of qualifications
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Not hearing back from job applications
  • Intensity of the job search
  • Job interviews
  • Experiences of support from Jobcentre Plus
  • Types of support wanted
  • Sanctions

Each of these themes was explored and actionable recommendations were provided for future change.

Every recommendation in the report has been suggested or approved by the young people involved. The young people also discuss the stereotypes of being a young job seeker, their care responsibilities and how they feel about their situations.

“When you’re working you haven’t got time to think, but when you’ve got no job and you’re just sat there thinking and your mind starts over thinking about things, and then that makes you depressed”

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