An article in The Telegraph at the beginning of January identified that 120,888 children are currently at risk of becoming NEETs because they “perform below national averages in the three-Rs” (The Telegraph, Jan 2014).

Statistics from June 2013 show that 15.5% of 16-24 year olds in England were NEETs (DFE, June 2013). With pupils now having to stay in education or training until the age of 17, moving to 18 in 2015, will this prove to be the magical solution for reducing unemployment for young people?

Studies such as the one reported in The Telegraph suggests not, concluding that “it would fail to improve children’s chances of being NEET because long-term opportunities are often dictated by pupils’ earlier performance at primary and secondary school” (The Telegraph, Jan 2014).

In order to give your pupils the best possible chance of success, a focus on the development of life and employment skills throughout their education is paramount. This works to give all students the opportunity to leave the education system feeling equipped to take the first step towards their long-term goals.

With this in mind, what strategies are the most successful in preventing your pupils becoming NEETs?

1. Develop soft skills

These skills should be identified, introduced and developed in all years, rather than applied as a crash course in years 10 and 11. Identifying how and when skills are being developed is also beneficial; a pupil may have demonstrated good time management skills in a task without even being aware of it.

These soft skills include:

  • Positive attitude
  • Time management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication skills
  • Self-evaluation
  • Flexibility/adaptability

2. Discussing options and planning the future

Discuss each pupil’s options with them so that they can gain knowledge of their next step to getting the career they desire. Some pupils may have no idea what they want to do so discussing their likes, hobbies or interests may be the ideal first step.

Then encourage the pupil to go and research jobs based on these interests, perhaps contacting people in the area of work that interests them. Have follow-up discussions to see if any progress has been made on their plan for finding work after leaving school. Encourage pupils to gain experience outside of the classroom in areas such as voluntary work.

3. Focused sessions on preparing CVs and developing interview skills

Conduct practice interviews so that pupils can gain confidence by becoming familiar with the type of questions asked and what type of answers are expected of them. Try and give plenty of advice regarding good interview practice.

It may sound obvious, but many people still turn up to interviews in jeans and t-shirts, not knowing a thing about the company and having no answers or questions prepared. A solid CV and covering letter, along with filling out application forms will all stand the pupil in good stead for their first step on the career ladder. This includes preparation for a college application and interview.

4. Self-reflection and evaluation

Take every opportunity across the curriculum to encourage self-reflection and evaluation along with identifying strengths and weaknesses – the dreaded question in any interview. Ensuring your pupils are prepared for self-assessment style questions like these through constant self-evaluation is key. If your pupils have a career ambition in mind, go through the steps they would need to achieve this goal.

5. Numeracy and literacy skills

These are invaluable for all aspects in life and the understanding that pupils will need these skills beyond the classroom is a crucial element. By developing knowledge and understanding of various subjects, pupils gain the tools that they need for success in later life. These tools are not developed through rote learning.

This can be difficult when some pupils are of the opinion that they will never use the information once they leave school, so why should they care? Links to the ‘real world’ should therefore be emphasised wherever possible.

What strategies for life and employment skills do you currently have in place?