Evaluating England's youth employment infrastructure

A dejected young businessman sitting alone on a park bench in London on a rainy day, photo by RichLegg/Getty Images

RichLegg/Getty Images

What is the issue?

The youth employment space has gone through substantial changes over the last several years, in part due to underfunding, structural changes and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes have had profound effects not only on youth employment itself, but also infrastructure organisations which provide vital support to frontline organisations working directly with young people.

As such, support provided for the infrastructure organisations, such as the Resilience Funding offered by Youth Futures Foundation (YFF) is critical to strengthen the youth employment space in England, in particular for organisations that focus on young people from minority ethnic backgrounds.

How did we help?

RAND Europe was commissioned by YFF to conduct a study on infrastructure organisations (IOs) working in the youth employment space in England. Researchers used a theory-based approach and mixed methods including interviews, survey and workshops to:

  1. Show how infrastructure bodies support the youth employment space and effect change
  2. Support infrastructure bodies to improve practice and delivery to stakeholders, and
  3. Improve the evidence base of what works by sharing good practice between infrastructure organisations.

What did we find?

As part of the project, the study team conducted five case studies to look more in depth at emerging themes of the study. For these case studies, we did in-depth interviews with relevant infrastructure organisations and other stakeholders to get a better understanding of how infrastructure organisations support frontline organisations and other stakeholders in these different areas.

The case studies are:

The case studies can be accessed from the links above or from the Youth Futures Foundation website. Our final report for this study will be published later this year.

Overall, the study found that:

  • IOs are a key element of the youth employment landscape.
  • IOs are quite diverse and may have very different functions: influencing policy and practice, raising qualifications and standards, facilitating learning and access to data, embedding and championing youth voice, and capacity building.
  • IOs face a number of barriers to their work – primarily they lack capacity and resources to fully exploit their potential.

What can be done?

  • Policymakers and funders could better support IOs by developing a strategy to offer long-term, flexible and comprehensive funding.
  • Support for IOs should be more holistic and include areas such as strengthening bid-writing, fundraising, or analytical skills.
  • The role and value of IOs in the youth employment space should be better recognised and valued.