Ready for Work: The research is just the beginning

When you commission a piece of research, you can’t predict how it will be received. You commission in the knowledge that it’ll be useful, create a case for action and move your work forward. You hope that it will catch the imagination of others and start conversations that lead to new partnerships and projects. But you can never be sure.

When we commissioned Ready for Work we had two questions in mind that needed answering, to inform both our work supporting charities helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds get into employment and our policy work campaigning to remove the structural barriers that have led to the UK’s youth unemployment crisis. The questions were:

1) Can we create a common language to describe the essential capabilities employers are looking for when they recruit?

2) Can we determine the state of the evidence on ‘what works’ in building these essential capabilities?

Working with the Young Foundation and the Social Research Unit, Ready for Work answers these questions. We know young people need appropriate qualifications and stable enough personal circumstances to be successful in finding and keeping work. In addition, through in-depth discussions with employers we have developed the six ‘capabilities’ a young person needs to thrive in the world of work. They are: self-aware, receptive, self-assured, driven, resilient and informed. You can find more details in the report, including examples to illustrate how a person with these capabilities behaves.

To answer the second question, we trawled international databases looking for interventions which have been proven to have a positive effect on these capabilities, through either a Randomised Control or Quasi-Experimental Design Trial. We found over 35 such interventions, which appear in our Catelogue of interventions at the end of the report. We also uncovered many gaps in the evidence base and many further questions worthy of research. We know the catalogue is just a start, but it’s one we’re excited to make – so little of the enormous public spend on employability is evidence-based, and this needs to change.

Without doubt the most exciting element has been the report’s enthusiastic reception  from those who provide services to young people. In the report we explain that the capabilities can be developed and used by staff working with young people to determine, monitor, and manage their progress in developing these capabilities to a point where staff feel they are ready for interview, and to start work.

At Impetus-PEF we believe this type of performance management is essential for organisations that are serious about having real impact. Ready for Work makes this concept – which can sound dry – come alive for practitioners and managers. With our support, our portfolio of employment charities are developing the tool for their use, and we are keen to help other organisations do the same – and to keep in touch to find out how it’s worked for them.

Both the capabilities and the catalogue offer great potential in making the services that charities – and other providers – offer to young people much more effective. The response to the report has made this clear and we’ll be building on it to help more organisations commit time and resource to driving impact, and getting young people not just ready for work, but ready to succeed in work.

Impetus − The Private Equity Foundation
About The Author
Jenny North is Director of Policy and Strategy at Impetus-PEF. Jenny joined Impetus-PEF from Relate, where she served as Head of Public Policy for six years. Prior to this she held policy positions with Maternity Alliance and New Policy Institute. Her experience also includes working at the Home Office as a Crime and Policing Analyst. Jenny holds a degree in Philosophy and Theology from Oxford University. Follow Jenny on Twitter: @JayEeeEnn

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