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Barriers & challenges

Non-university routes into employment come with distinctive barriers or challenges

Some of the practitioners and policy makers we interviewed expressed concern about young people’s ‘readiness’ for further education, employment or training, suggesting deficits in ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills and a lack of work experience and understanding.


Others placed greater emphasis on structural barriers. In addition to a lack of good quality job opportunities available locally and expensive and/or poor quality public transport networks that prevent young people from accessing jobs outside of their immediate localities, these structural barriers include challenging environments for young people relating to chronic problems of violence, public spending cuts and poverty. 


A core challenge continues to be the low status of vocational pathways into employment compared to more traditional academic routes. Despite a sustained policy emphasis on achieving greater ‘parity of esteem’ between vocational education and academic pathways in England, many policy makers and practitioners expressed concern that vocational routes are still commonly viewed as inferior ‘back up’ options to more prestigious academic routes through sixth form and university. Some believed that this was attributable to a lack of knowledge among schoolteachers, and some careers advisors, about post-16 transitions that do not involve university. 

More of our findings

Nearly 1 in 2 young people experience school as something they need to 'get through'.

The pandemic has significantly impacted young people’s lives and post-16 transitions.

The post-16 transitions through VET of the young people we are speaking with were often non-linear and disjointed.

Uneven quality and availability of careers information, advice and guidance.

Many young people turn to their family networks for careers support and/or work opportunities.

Young people who have migrated face additional challenges relating to their transitions.

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