Lessons from history

James Kewin

Mark Tucker

Sarah Neat

Mark Corney

This report explores increasing the number of 16 and 17 year olds in education and training.

In this context, there is a strong case for reviewing historical youth unemployment and training programmes to identify lessons for policy makers today. This report is the result of a review of 18 programmes implemented between 1972 and 1997. The year 1972 was chosen as this is when active labour market policies were deployed to manage rising unemployment; the review concludes in 1997 when the Labour Government first took office. The focus of the review was on employment and skills measures rather than interventions directly targeted at increasing participation in full-time education. Curriculum reform and financial support for full-time students were outside the scope of the review.

To learn from history, we must accept that the education and labour market for young people has changed significantly over the past 40 years. For example, during the 1980s the labour market was still a source of jobs (with or without training) for a significant proportion of 16 and 17 year olds with a much smaller proportion participating in full-time education. Today, the reverse is true. At the same time, the UK has moved from an employer-funded system of 16–18 apprenticeships to a publicly funded system.