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Aug 3, 2023 | by What Works Centre for Wellbeing

What works to support young people’s employment? – new toolkit launched

Whether we are in a job or not is one of the most important drivers affecting our wellbeing. The negative impact of unemployment goes beyond income and results in lower life satisfaction and a worsening effect on wellbeing as time goes on. For young people, evidence suggests wellbeing may be particularly affected and decline further compared to other groups. 

To support young people into employment, the Youth Futures Foundation has developed a new Youth Employment Toolkit for policy and decision makers. The Foundation, like the Centre, is part of the What Works Network. Their aim is to improve employment outcomes for young people from marginalised backgrounds. 

Here, we discuss the link between employment and wellbeing, summarise the Toolkit, and explore further resources and learnings. 

Employment, young people and wellbeing

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) collects data on the percentage of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) as an indicator of how the nation is doing. Data from May 2023 estimates there are 770,000 young people NEET in the UK. 

About 500,000 young people each year do not go into Higher Education straight from school. Employment is important for immediate wellbeing and later health and wellbeing – with Mission 5 of Levelling Up aimed at avoiding some of the very worst wellbeing outcomes of low income, precarity and unemployment

For those with lower wellbeing, Higher Education can make a big difference to later wellbeing and social connections can help with the transition from education to employment.  Job-related training can help too, especially in some parts of the country. To support students in higher education, who then may go on into employment, our recent analysis looked at what factors or characteristics might influence wellbeing whilst studying.  

We know from our systematic review of global evidence that the effect of unemployment is large and potentially long lasting, and can be especially impactful for young people. This is because people do not adapt to unemployment and their wellbeing is permanently reduced. Those who transition from education into non-career or temporary jobs are less happy compared to other groups in work or education. Additionally, the review showed some initial evidence that individuals with skills or who are more adaptable, experience a lower reduction in wellbeing caused by unemployment. 

Based on these findings, it suggests prioritising interventions for long term and youth employed groups, reducing negative impacts by increasing employment and employability, and focusing on good quality and sustainable jobs. 

Youth Employment Toolkit

The Young Futures Foundation has launched a new ‘What Works’ Toolkit of the current knowledge on intervention effectiveness, cost, and confidence for policymakers, intermediaries, practitioners and employers. The free online resource collates evidence on what works to increase employment, improve employability and help young people rejoin the workforce.

Samuela, Future Voices Ambassador, Youth Futures Foundation said:

“The Youth Employment Toolkit makes it easier to find out what works to support young people facing barriers in the employment system and it will continue to gather evidence to tackle this issue. I am optimistic it is a step forward in breaking down barriers by building a clearer understanding.”

The research that underpins the Toolkit includes findings from a network meta-analysis of published evaluations. It brings together evidence with an assessment of strengths and limitations of findings. 

It contains information about seven different kinds of intervention:

  1. On the job training
  2. Basic skills training
  3. Off the job training
  4. Life skills training
  5. Wage subsidy programmes
  6. Apprenticeships
  7. Mentoring and coaching

Findings from the Toolkit indicate that vocational training, including apprenticeships, is likely to have a good impact on helping young people facing disadvantage get a job.

Evidence in the Toolkit will continue to grow and the Foundation plans to provide information on more interventions as well as add any new knowledge or data to the existing ones. This means the resource can’t capture every single effective intervention at the moment but it will continue to build as the evidence does.  

Guidance for adopting the Toolkit recommends checking for the most up-to-date version of the resource, bearing in mind specific contexts, using it alongside other kinds of evidence or expertise, considering outcomes beyond gaining employment, tailoring implementation, and monitoring progress.

Discover more

As evidence indicates a strong link between wellbeing and employment; building, sharing and growing research and support in this area is a key focus for the Centre. Our resources and learnings on working age and business include:

  • Finding and keeping work – In our Business Leaders’ Council webinar, a panel of experts, including Chris Goulden from the Youth Futures Foundation, explored this topic. During the event we discussed how employers and policymakers can support people to find and keep work across the life course to ensure the sustainability of the UK workforce.
  • Which jobs make us happy? – We gathered insights from 10 years of UK labour market wellbeing data, and investigated the subjective wellbeing associated with a particular job or career.
  • Finding work after education – We looked into what characteristics or circumstances might influence whether a young person goes on to find a job after leaving education.
  • Adult learning – We explored whether groups that are at greater risk of inequalities or marginalisation benefit from training or learning.
  • Improving job quality – Our briefing considered what workplace approaches are the most effective at improving wellbeing.


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