From NEETs to YEETs

Inactive youths lead to low income adults in the future. There are several risk factors that have to be identified and there are many individual consequences of being NEET

We are working hard to tackle the problem of those young persons not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET). In the 18-24 age group there are around 7,000 young persons classified as NEETS.

This is one of the most serious challenges that we have to face. Data available for fifth formers during the scholastic year 2012-2013, shows that 86% continue studying, 7% go into the job market and another 7% (around 300) are categorised as NEETS.

The alarming rate, however, is that at age 18, the number of those furthering their studies drops sharply by about 30%; down to 56%. These figures make me and indeed my government very unhappy and we are actively working hard to change our youths from NEETs to YEETs – Youths in Education, Employment or Training.

We have made inroads but the optimum result is still far away.  Very often, many do not treat this issue seriously enough. In fact, in previous years these NEETS were not even on the radar.  The Youth Guarantee was not just an election promise but a new approach to tackling youth unemployment.

The principle to tackle the NEET problem has been endorsed by all EU countries. It ensures that all young people under 25 – whether registered with employment services or not – get a good-quality, concrete offer within four months of them leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. The good-quality offer should be for a job, apprenticeship, traineeship, or continued education and be adapted to each individual need and situation.

Statistical data shows that at age 18, there are 44% of young persons not studying. In our efforts to tackle this issue, we have introduced revision classes for SEC exams and for MCAST. In our youth programmes we have created around 750 traineeships and apprenticeships and we are working hard on the Alternative Learning Programme (ALP) to address the 7% of those young people who will not sit for SEC; this by providing vocational education and through learning by doing.

Our employment figures are steadily rising and our unemployment figures have been constantly on the decrease. Good, but this does not address the situation for the future. A high rate of NEETs means a higher burden on the economy and also an overall lower standard of education. Furthermore, by neglecting the preparation of a skills base that meets the needs of the 21st Century, we would also be jeopardising our country’s advantage in attracting new businesses that will help us build a more stable economy.

Inactive youths lead to low income adults in the future. There are several risk factors that have to be identified and there are many individual consequences of being NEET. Having NEET status can have severe individual consequences for the young people concerned. They might experience economic disadvantages, face psychological distress, isolation and disaffection and they may disengage and participate in risky behaviour.

For these reasons, being NEET is not only a waste of young people’s talents. It also constitutes a challenge to society and the economy. To us, this is not acceptable.

We have a dire need to create more initiatives that will provide a second chance of education to these individuals. This will enhance employability prospects of NEETs.

Developing and delivering a Youth Guarantee scheme requires strong cooperation between all key stakeholders: public authorities, employment services, career guidance providers, education and training institutions, youth support services, business, employers, trade unions, etc. Improving vocational education and training systems is of the utmost importance. There is a need for a collective effort and it is a known fact that as the job market improves the rate of NEETs falls.

We have addressed the NEET issue in our education policy, our employment policy, and more specifically in our Alternative Learning Programme (ALP). We should learn from the successes of other countries and we should not be afraid to copy good and workable solutions. We need to minimise the number of youngsters who are NEET. We need to develop and expand our skill base and we must ensure that learning is fun. Learning is more effective when it is an active rather than a passive process.