Past Tense, Future Imperfect? Youth People's Pathways into Work

Peter Elias, Anne Green, Phillip Mizen, Kate Purcell

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


The landscape of work is changing rapidly and young
people need information about these changes to
enable them to navigate this complexity. The transition
from education to work presents young people with
an important and complex set of decisions. How long
should they remain in education? What kind of work
interests them and how will they discover the available
options in terms of finding out about work? Is a
university education a sensible route for all those who
can make the grade? What about job-related training –
how will it help and who will provide it?
Work is fragmenting in ways that complicate the
picture further. In response to competitive pressures,
and to meet the demands placed on them by
consumer lifestyle changes, an increasing number of
employers have tapped into what has become known
as the ‘gig economy’, providing work in a piecemeal
fashion to sub-contracted temporary or self-employed
workers. Other employers may provide opportunities
for young people to join their workforce for a limited
period, possibly without pay, both to enable them
to gain some experience of a structured work
environment and to assess their suitability for work.
This report presents preliminary findings from a major
research project that sheds light on these changes.
Our evidence is derived mainly from discussions
with employers and interviews with young people,
focussing in and around the West and East Midlands.
Throughout, we have been concerned to engage
with representatives from the full spectrum of youth
labour market stakeholders who, from their different
perspectives, have a much clearer and more detailed
understanding of the dynamics of different parts of
the labour market and the opportunities available to
young people over the last few years than we could
The following section provides a statistical picture
of the changing nature of the labour market in the
Midlands. The third section draws on evidence
provided by employers. The fourth section presents
information provided by school and college
leavers. This is followed by a section illustrating
the experiences of graduates. Two further sections
follow. The first of these places the changes we are
now experiencing within a historical context. The final
section draws these findings together, highlighting
what we see as the major issues which need to be
addressed by all who have an interest in the pathways
young people are taking as they enter the labour
market. We hope that you will read this report, discuss
it with your colleagues and wider social networks, and
send us your suggestions for our final report.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCoventry
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding: This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council


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