Is it worth signing up for a course in health & beauty? Can a successful media student expect a job in the creative industry? Many have wondered. A report out this month could help young people make a more informed judgement. Hidden Talents, a report by the Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion, is a “skills mismatch analysis”. It very conveniently compares FE and skills achievements with the number of current jobs in the relevant occupations and the estimated new vacancies.
There are limits to the data, and precise figures should be treated with caution, warn the researchers. But in general, they say:
At a national level, there are significantly fewer jobs / vacancies per skills achievement in the creative industries; hair & beauty; and hospitality, leisure, travel & tourism. This suggests that these sectors have an over-supply of training. There are significantly more jobs / vacancies per skills achievement in marketing & sales; supporting teaching & learning in schools; security industries; and fashion & textiles. This suggests that these sectors have an under-supply of training.
They put the data for 16 to 18 year olds in a colour-coded table, where red indicates a relatively low number of jobs per skills achievement. Green indicates a relatively high number of jobs. Yellow is average:
A speech today by Prime Minister David Cameron on welfare benefits has triggered concern for young people. While the proposals are vague and poorly-defined, they seem to signal an intent to reduce benefits for young people. For instance, they propose denying housing benefit to anyone under 25 – with the possible exception of care leavers and victims of domestic violence. The theme was “no one is owed a living”.
How can young people, and those who work with them, respond in such a climate. Here are some quick thoughts:
Don’t waste too much energy or thought on the current discussions. They are about political positioning. They may influence the Conservative party manifesto in the run-up to the next election. Or not. Either way they are currently a distraction from the changes that are already in the pipeline or happening.
Get advice on the rules for benefit entitlement. Rules are complex and changing. Find a good source of reliable local advice and build up relationships. This will be tougher than it once was. Welfare rights and advice services are fighting for their existence. So help them if you can.
Stay flexible, and keep abreast of changes as they happen. If you feel that you have been treated unfairly, considering appealing. Many decisions are reversed on appeal.
On the jobs market, be aware that not all training and education gives the same chance of getting a job. In general, the hair & beauty industry has a relatively low number of vacancies compared to those with skills to do them. So does hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism. And the creative and cultural industries. On the other hand, health & safety, fashion & textiles and marketing and sales have relatively high number of jobs for those skilled to do them.
Shanene Thorpe, a young single parent, agreed to be interviewed for national television news about her life. She is proud of her child – “a beautiful, sociable and happy three-year-old girl”. She is also proud of the way she herself copes with the challenges of being a working mum. She lives in London and works in Tower Hamlets. As a worker on a low income, she is entitled to housing benefit to contribute towards her rent. So she claims it.
By the end of the interview, Shanene felt humiliated. She thought she was being given the opportunity to talk about what it is like to be an working mum – her struggle to find a place to live independently. Instead, she faced a series of aggressive, rude and ill-informed questions from the journalist, Allegra Stratton, a political editor on BBC’s Newsnight programme,
Shanene thinks the BBC owes her and her family an apology. She is inviting others to sign a petition requesting one, which more than 20,000 people have signed. The petition is online, along with a clip of the interview.
The clip reveals a badly-prepared interviewer with a unpleasant prejudice. Newsnight’s political editor looks boorish, ignorant and insensitive. It is a reminder of the deep level of ignorance among journalists and politicians about the lives of most people. Such coverage widens the divide. In future, people such as Shanene will be less inclined to talk to journalists. Tower Hamlets council, who set up the interview, will be less inclined to help. Mistrust and suspicion will fuel ignorance – when what is needed is greater knowledge and understanding. And more voices like Shanene’s showing what a great job young, single mothers do in adverse circumstances.
UPDATE 1 June 20102: Shanene has now heard from Newsnight. “A Newsnight producer rang me at work and said they were sorry if I felt I had not been accurately portrayed in the interview. I don’t really feel this is sufficient.” She describes more fully what happened to her and how she felt on a Guardian Comment is Free article.
Two young men who were aimless and broke are now enthusiastic and committed trainee youth workers. They also have much-improved money skills. How? They used the services of an advice and counselling service which was helping pilot a peer education project.
Money is rarely the primary reason young people contact Youth Start, a confidential advice, counselling and support service in Rotherham, funded through the Youth Service. ”But as you unravel what is concerning them, money may well be at the root of it”, says service co-ordinator Ann Berridge.
The project has provided help since 1989 with stress and emotional issues, sex and relationships, contraception, pregnancy and sexual health. Nowadays, money is often raised as a secondary concern in the project’s drop-in, youth clinics, and counselling sessions. Young people are more likely to have debts, particularly problems with phone contracts. The number of problems are increasing, in part due to the closure of other young people’s projects.
Last year Youth Start joined a money skills programme run by a consortium of national youth organisations and sponsored by a high-street bank.
This is how it worked:
Staff from the project attended a two-day course for money skills support workers
They recruited and trained young people, mainly those not in education, employment or training, as volunteer money skills peer educators or “champions”.
The champions, equipped with a package of money skills material and 16 hours of training, shared their learning and, supported by the workers, ran sessions with other neet young people.
For the two champions who finished the course, the project has had a brilliant outcome says Ann Berridge. They learnt and practised skills to sort out their own finances. And as they worked with other young people they found a purpose in their lives they didn’t have before. Now Josh West and Aaron Wildman, both 19, have been accepted as youth work apprentices at the local college. Developing the commitment and determination to work towards a professional qualification is a major outcome of the course that went beyond budgeting and bank accounts.
Ann Berridge explains: “Josh and Aaron had to manage their own feelings and viewpoints, put aside their thoughts if they conflicted with what the money skills project was trying to deliver. They learnt to respect other young people’s experiences. They worked with people in a much worse position than themselves, not judging them, but accepting their situation and helping them find positive options to move forward.”
They also learnt where their cut-off point was, when a young person’s needs required another agency such as Citizens Advice or a debt advice agency.
At the beginning, that had been a major worry. The young men found the idea of getting involved in in-depth debt advice pretty scary. As they worked through the training they realised that it was relatively low-level. That helped them feel more confident about it, realising that they could use their own skills and their own learning and life experiences.
Money skills peer education in action, Aaron on right
The money skills “champions” project is now being rolled out nationally. Details of how to take part are on the money skills website hosted by Barclays.
Is passing the driving test a realistic possibility for young people? Or an unaffordable dream?
Ask them, and you will get an opinion. That may be a hunch and may be right. But it is not hard to come up with an accurate total estimate. This might challenge some initial assumptions, and perhaps begin a process of planning and budgeting.
So try this quiz. Put figures to the following. If you don’t know, guess.
How much does a provisional licence cost?
How much do driving lessons cost, and how many do people normally have before passing the test?
How much do the driving tests – the theory and the practical – cost?
Spend time guessing, debating or researching the answers. Then check with the figures below, handily summarised by the Money Advice Service. The section also has useful additional estimates and links on the costs of motoring.
Here is a handy way of exploring some of the misunderstandings that young people may have about housing benefit. It is especially useful for anyone who thinks that if you are on benefits or a low income you can just apply for housing benefit and your rent will be paid.
It’s the first-ever youthmoney video and it’s got some very rough edges. If the production values are not up to your standard, here are the salient points:
Young people under the age of 35 with no dependents who live in private rented accommodation and qualify for housing benefit will be paid a maximum amount, set locally.
In the pulldown menu where you have to select how many bedrooms you are entitled to, choose “shared accommodation”.
Select the local authority area in the other pulldown menu, and click on submit.
To clarify, this is not welfare benefits advice. There are exceptions and different rules for people in particular categories. It is a useful tool when discussing independent living. Find out the rents locally in your area, and compare them with the maximum housing benefit that a young person would get (if they qualify for the maximum amount).
What was unemployment like when you were a teenager? Or when someone advising you was your age? Here’s an at-a-glance graph of the past twenty years.
Youth unemployment since 1992, provided by House of Commons library
What is immediately noticeable is what a tough time today’s 16 and 17 year olds have. Those who are under-18 and looking for work have an unemployment rate of 39.4 per cent. That is almost double the rate for 18-24 year olds, which at 20.2 per cent is high enough.
Note also how bad things have become recently. The rise in the line since 2008 is dramatic for both age groups. It is easy to see why youth unemployment is figuring high on the political agenda. The situation is already a lot worse than it has been over the past two decades.
Ed Balls is in Greggs buying eight sausage rolls. They’re 60p each. When the assistant hands them over she asks for £4.70. He should know this is wrong, because he is a financial whiz-kid and shadow chancellor of the exchequer. Eight 60ps are £4.80.
So what do you do? Ed Balls just paid up, said nothing and was 10p to the good.
It hardly matters. It’s only worth mentioning because of the general merriment around the pasty tax or sausage roll toll.
But, as the politicians say, there is a serious point here. In fact, two interesting financial education points are worth exploring:
What would you do if undercharged in a shop? Would your conscience bother you?
What happens if you work in a shop or bar and there’s a shortfall in the till? Can the employer deduct it from your wages?
Budget week is a good time to explore some of the basics about tax, particularly personal tax allowance. Take time, because it is complicated, and some young people get confused.
Here’s how one young man got hold of the wrong end of the personal allowance stick. He’d just got a job and told a youth worker:
I’m going to work there for a few months, then pack it in and get another job.
Because I know I can earn £7,000 without paying tax. Then I’ll get another job, earn another seven grand without tax….
It’s a fail. But it shows that he’d at least half-listened to a worker on money matters. She’d said everyone has a personal allowance, which is an amount of money you can earn without paying tax. He just got the operational detail wrong.
Aim to get across some key ideas, including.
For the current tax year, the basic personal allowance (tax-free amount) is £7,475. The amount you earn over and above your personal allowance is your taxable income. You have to pay income tax on that taxable income.
Young people who earn more than their personal allowance (which is roughly £140 a week) pay tax on the remainder at 20 per cent.
They also pay 12 per cent national insurance. This is often forgotten in media and political discussion. But when a young person looks at a pay-slip It is a hefty deduction. More than half as much again as the income tax.
For most workers the tax and national insurance will be deducted through the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) tax system. The employer takes off the tax before you get paid, so you don’t have a big bill at the end of the year. It spreads out the tax and the tax-free amount throughout the year. That’s what puts an end to the young man’s cunning plan (see above).
You don’t have a period where you earn tax-free up to your allowance and then get clobbered for tax on the whole of your future earnings. Good thing too. Your budgeting would be impossible.
Know your national insurance number and give it to your employer. This will help make sure you pay the right amount of tax and national insurance.
You’ll also need a tax code, sent by the tax office (also known as HMRC, or Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). Until you get this code, the employer will use an emergency tax code – which means you could pay too much or too little tax to begin with. This will be adjusted for later, which can be a pain.
There are well-developed resources on line for learning about tax. HMRC do one, intended for classrooms but could be useful for other settings. Or review it looking insights and ideas that might be interesting to young people. Find the full resource or try the income tax module now: