Precarious pathways to employment: Young people's access to work

Posted by pt91 at Sep 28, 2017 10:35 AM |
Study involving Leicester examines issues affecting the youth labour market

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 28 September 2017

Photograph of Professor Melanie Simms available to download at:

A new study involving the University of Leicester raises concerns that employment and career development opportunities for young people are becoming polarised between those with the resources to access secure, fulfilling employment and those on the path to precarious and unpredictable working lives with poor prospects.

The report, Present tense, future imperfect? Young people’s pathways into work is published today (28 September) and presents the findings of a three-year study examining the youth labour market in the Midlands from the perspectives of young people themselves, and their employers. The project was conducted by a team led by Professor Kate Purcell at the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research.

Professor Melanie Simms, from the University of Leicester School of Business, led the sub-project looking at employers’ views of hiring and managing young workers.

She said: “Overall, employers are generally very positive about their experiences and recognise that a lot of young people need time to make the transition to work. In general, they feel they are competing for the talent of young people in a tough labour market and want to use a range of approaches to attract young people to their sectors and organisations.

“However, there are big differences between working patterns in different sectors which can lead to some problems for young people with work experience, fixed-term contracts and barriers to accessing some sectors.”

Commenting on the study, Professor Purcell said: “Our evidence leaves no doubt that that young people’s achievement and attitudes are related to earlier social and educational advantages and disadvantages; the family and community support and the quality of education available to them; and the quality of the careers guidance to which they had access.”

The researchers interviewed young people and their employers in and around the West and East Midlands, and discussed their findings with a range of youth labour market stakeholders. Employer case studies were drawn from seven sectors: health (the NHS); automotive manufacturing; food and drink manufacturing; the voluntary sector; creative industries; hospitality; and business-to-business services.

The study, funded by the ESRC, finds evidence that young people with solid educational and family backgrounds, with the contacts and confidence to seek out career opportunities, are highly likely to gain access to work in secure occupations with good conditions of employment and career development.  By contrast, job-seekers without these advantages are increasingly found in low-skilled, low-paid jobs, very often on short-term contracts with no guaranteed hours and with few opportunities for progression.

You can access the full release here:


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