Young people transitioning into education and employment 

Researchers: Ken Clark, Steve Nolan 

This project examines how labour market inequalities are rooted in the differential experiences of young people in the education system and investigates how the pathways to employment are patterned by ethnically marked choice and constraints in post-compulsory education provision. We aim to use this research and evidence from previous recessions, which tended to affect younger people more severely, to highlight the need for ethnicity and race to feature at the heart of the policy response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

We will examine apprenticeships, a key element of employment policy that is intended to improve intermediate skills, and how effectively this operates for people from different backgrounds. The usefulness of apprenticeship policy in addressing ethnic inequalities in the labour market is open to question: BME learners are overrepresented in applications for apprenticeship programmes but are underrepresented in terms of apprenticeship starts and completions. 

Using pupil and school-level administrative data from the Department for Education we will examine the extent to which achievements at school affect the likelihood of both starting and completing an apprenticeship. By taking advantage of the larger sample sizes that this administrative data offer we will analyse a wider range of ethnic groups than is usually found in this area of research and develop conclusions for apprenticeship policy. 

We are also interested in how labour market outcomes across minority groups are impacted by differential returns to schooling. By linking survey data from Understanding Society with school-level data, such as Ofsted inspections, we aim to investigate how school quality may have persistent effects on later life outcomes. 

We aim to use the experience of previous recessions to guide present-day policy. Data from the surveys of the population and the labour market from the last 25 years will be exploited to build a rich and detailed understanding of ethnic patterns in the labour market, providing a context against which post-pandemic policy can be measured. 

Together this research forms a work package that will highlight the need for UK policymakers to consider the wider implications for ethnic minority groups as they formulate policy around education and the labour market in their response to COVID-19.

More from this project

COVID-19 and apprenticeship policy for ethnic minority young people

Apprenticeships are a key route into employment for young people. This CoDE/Runnymede briefing explores how apprenticeships policy can support young people from ethnic minorities right at the start of their working lives. 

Read the briefing on the Runnymede website

Young ethnic minorities bear brunt of recessions, and it’s happening again – here’s how to stop it

This article in The Conversation shows the disproportionate impact of economic downturns on young people from ethnic minorities, provides evidence that this pattern is repeating as a result of COVID-19 and recommends actions for policymakers to avoid increasing inequalities. 

Read the article