Youth Misspent: Uncovering the harsh realities for Britain’s young people in today’s job market

City & Guilds’ research finds that the odds are being stacked against young people’s futures and career aspirations – particularly the most disadvantaged.

07 December 2022

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Almost a quarter of UK youth turned off work for life.

  • Nearly one in ten (9%) young people currently studying or out of work say they never intend to start working
  • 30% of young people say they don’t think they’ll ever meet their career ambitions
  • Disadvantaged youth locked out of opportunities to enter workplace

City & Guilds is calling on Government and industry to put renewed focus on young people’s skills and careers as the UK enters an economic recession

Following a trend of chronically high youth unemployment, the research – based on a survey of 5,000 18-24-year-olds living in the UK – reveals that 13% are currently unemployed (not in work or studying) and a further 3% are economically inactive – equating to approximately 859,000 young adults out of work and education across the UK.

The findings indicate that many young people feel totally excluded from the labour market. Of those currently studying or out of work, nearly one in ten (9%) – that’s 227,000 people – say they never intend to start working.

Worryingly, young people seem to be rapidly losing hope as they face what they see as a hostile labour market with limited opportunities to get a foot on the ladder and progress – suggesting they are being let down by the education system, Government and employers alike. 

Almost a third (30%) of young people stated they don’t think they will ever be able to achieve their career ambitions. This is highest amongst those who are currently not working (35%) and those who have faced difficulties in their early lives – notably those who have been in the prison system (59%), been a refugee (54%) or been through the care system (44%).

Kirstie Donnelly, CEO of City and Guilds, said: “We can’t keep blaming the pandemic for the issues facing today's youth. High youth unemployment has been an issue for more than a decade and the pandemic was just another challenge heaped onto an already creaking system that makes it incredibly difficult for young people to convert their aspirations into good jobs.

“In addition, our research found that young people who have faced additional challenges, such as young carers, care and prison leavers and those who come from less affluent families, are falling way behind their peers in the labour market at the earliest stage of their careers. The current system is baking in inequality and preventing millions of young people from meeting their potential.”

For those that are keen to work, they face real barriers to getting jobs. More than two in five (43%) do not believe that their education has equipped them with the skills they need to get the job they want. Two thirds (64%) of young people say that it is not easy to get a good job these days, and nearly a third (29%) say they have struggled to get interviews. One in five (19%) say there simply aren’t the jobs available in their local area.

In face of these challenges, young people strongly believe both Government and employers must do more to support them. Just a quarter (26%) of the 18-24-year-olds surveyed think the Government is doing enough to support young people entering the world of work, and that drops to just 19% of those that are unemployed. 

Kirstie continued: “If we don’t open doors for young people from all backgrounds to enter the labour market, and invest in their skills, we are losing out on all of that of talent and creativity. And ultimately, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. Young people should be forming be a critical part of the UK’s recovery story and harnessing their potential will be essential if we are to come out of the other side of another recession with a brighter future ahead. Crucially, if we don’t fix this now, we risk storing up more problems for generations to come, exacerbating productivity shortfalls and social inequalities in the long term.”


In its new report Youth Misspent, City & Guilds has set out key recommendations for employers, Government and educators to better support young people to enter the labour market, including:


  • Engage with the skills system and existing Government skills initiatives to provide better opportunities and progression for young people – and fill critical skills shortages.
  • Make it easier for young people to access and progress in their careers – especially the most disadvantaged.


  • Work with educators and employers to optimise existing skills interventions and fully utilise funding pots.
  • Improve careers guidance and education from early years through to adulthood.


  • Help young people of all ages to be more aware of the broader education and career opportunities available to them.
  • Ensure that curricula are inclusive, allowing people with different abilities to achieve their best.

Read the full report Youth Misspent here

About the research

Research was conducted by Opinium Research, on behalf of City & Guilds. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th October – 2nd November 2022 amongst a nationally representative sample of 5,006 UK-based adults aged between 18-24 years (with an equal spread of young men and women).

To find out more or speak to a City & Guilds spokesperson, contact:

firstlight group

T +44 7860 650103 / +44 7769618500