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"Neets" In America?

April 25, 2007

The Guardian Unlimited ran an article yesterday on the plague of “young people aged 16 to 24 not in education, employment or training.” The British Government is concerned about this problem, and I’m wondering if anything analogous is happening in the U.S.?

But first, some excerpts from the piece by Britain’s “shadow minister for vocational education,” John Hayes:

– “A growing army of young people in Britain is being left behind. That’s the conclusion of a recent report by the Prince’s Trust, which exposed the crisis of “neets” – young people aged 16 to 24 not in education, employment or training.
Relatively low unemployment masks almost 1.3 million ‘neets’, a lost generation that has grown by 15% since 1997. The failure to tap their potential undermines social cohesion, damages the economy, and puts a growing strain on the exchequer. The report estimates the cost at £3.65bn a year.” [or about 7 billion U.S.]
– “These young lives have been damaged by an education system that fails to engage those with vocational aptitudes. While other countries have apprenticeship systems respected by learners and employers alike, in Britain, much training dubbed ‘apprenticeship’ is not worthy of the name.”
– “Most people’s vision of an apprenticeship is of an eager young learner acquiring, at the elbow of an experienced craftsman, key competences in a valued, skilled job. But the reality is quite different. Many have become ‘virtual’: it is possible to complete your training without ever having set foot in the work place.”
– “New, programme-led apprenticeships, introduced in 2003, enable apprentices to begin their training at a college or training provider even if they have yet to secure a work placement.”
– “The authors of a London School of Economics study in 2003 concluded that [the British] have created a complex academic system of vocational qualifications because of a lack of consensus about what vocational education is actually for. Its purpose has been confused by often conflicting objectives of increasing social inclusion, and creating ‘parity of esteem’ with academic qualifications.”
– “Vocational education should be about providing a rigorous pathway for students who wish to acquire a craft. It should be rooted in the practical acquisition of the skills necessary to do particular jobs.”
– “While [the British] waste a generation’s potential, [they] add to their number, as 45,000 16-year-olds leave school each year functionally illiterate and/or innumerate. This sad, forgotten generation can only look forward to a future of unemployment as demand for unskilled labour plummets.”
– “To compensate for these failures, [the British] import skills through mass immigration, masking the ill effects of the government’s failure to build a vocational training regime sufficiently rigorous and appealing to satisfy economic needs and to inspire those with practical aptitudes. Until we build such an attractive vocational path, we will continue to cheat the lost generation of their chance to prosper.”

The U.S. educational apparatus of course differs from Britain’s. We have a well-established vocational school system. But I wonder what the trends are within vocational education. Are we losing students? Gaining them? Holding steady? Perhaps our computer industry picks up the slack with this group of students, or at least it may have in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Will the U.S. see an increase in this not-so-“neet” cohort? – TL


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