Lessons from the youth hub library - it’s the details that make a difference

Young people facing barriers to getting into work were hard hit by the pandemic. Many of the shutdown sectors were the ones in which young people would usually have found jobs. Routes into work and the services young people rely on to get jobs weren’t accessible. For many young people, the pandemic also hit their education, aspirations, or wellbeing – or all three.

Through the Youth Employment Group, Impetus argued for Government intervention to tackle the challenges young people were struggling with. Part of the Government’s response in the Plan for Jobs was to create over 100 Youth Hubs, aiming to support around 100,000 young people a year trying to get into work by helping them to access local training and job opportunities, as well as a range of services to address wellbeing needs. These Hubs are physical spaces, shared by partners including colleges, charities, training providers and local councils, meaning people are able to access a range of services in one location. If you’re a young person without a job, Youth Hubs are there to help.

We were asked by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the West Midlands Combined Authority to support the planning and development of one of the demonstrator youth hubs, at the Library of Birmingham. Working with our friends at our charity partner Resurgo, we’ve delivered a series of theory of change workshops, bringing together representatives from the Combined Authority, Birmingham City Council, DWP and others involved in running the Youth Hub to work out how best to make a difference to the young people they serve.

Here are our three main reflections on what is essential for the successful implementation of for Youth Hubs:

Lesson 1 – if you want Youth Hubs to be different to Jobcentres, you have to do things differently

Everyone involved in the Library of Birmingham Youth Hub was clear they wanted to offer something different to the Jobcentre. Young people were also excited by this idea and had some great ideas about how to make Youth Hubs an attractive place to go for support. Central to this vision is a “culture of hospitality”. Youth Hubs need to be welcoming places, where young people are treated like adults. If they get this right, there’s the potential for Youth Hubs to reach young people not engaging with Jobcentres – a particularly hard to reach group. This won’t necessarily be easy, because culture change never is, but it’s the single biggest opportunity for Youth Hubs to do things differently and add value to the employment landscape.

Lesson 2 – Youth Hubs need the data to manage performance

Youth Hubs will provide some support to young people directly, but part of the point is to make full use of the wider range of employment support providers in the local area. But which providers are best placed to support which young people? Youth Hubs will need to track data on outcomes to make these decisions. “Data” always sounds nerdy, but it’s actually a big opportunity if Youth Hubs get it right – by directing young people towards provision most likely to be effective, ultimately more young people will be supported into work. Managing delivery partners well is essential for Youth Hubs to make a difference.

Lesson 3 – driving things forward requires clear leadership

The Youth Hub partnership model, with all the key players around the table and in the same place, is an exciting opportunity. But there is a risk that in an effort to see everyone work together, Youth Hubs lack a leader to really drive things forward. Without leadership, it will be too easy for everyone to default to playing it safe and doing what they know – but doing things differently is the point, and it will require some difficult decisions to be made. Clear leadership is essential.

Youth Hubs can make a real difference to young people as a major plank in the government’s headline-grabbing “plan for jobs”. But the details of what they look like on the ground are just as important, even if they don’t get the headlines. And this is where you’ll find the Impetus team – deep in the details, trying to make a difference.

You can read the conclusions the Library of Birmingham Youth Hubs team came to by reading our full report:

Steve is the Director of Public Affairs at Impetus

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