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Precarious pathways to employment for young people? Unpaid, temporary and involuntary part-time work in transitions from education to employment

How do young people get jobs?

In an increasingly competitive youth labour market, young people's early labour market experience has become progressively more protracted, unstable and fragmented. Between education and employment, unwaged work, temporary work and involuntary part-time work have become a more common for job-seekers, whatever their qualifications. As employers demand evidence of 'employability skills', work placements and internships have become an integral part of secondary and higher education and of early labour market experience.

Much of this activity is unrecorded in employment statistics. Temporary and unpaid work placements agreed between individual employers and those who seek work experience, sometimes mediated by educational or policy organisations or temporary agencies, are rarely monitored. How effective are they in promoting more stable labour market integration of young job-seekers? Where and when do they lead on to career opportunities? What is the balance of benefit between employers and the young workers? How far do such experiences increase or reduce equality of opportunity?

The aim of this project has been to conduct detailed interdisciplinary research to address these questions within the socio-economic contexts in which young people currently compete for employment.

Project news

We are keen to build on theis research, to get the messages from the research to young people and to youth labour market stakeholders who can influence recruitment, training and employment policy and practice.

Find out more. Download

- The Report 'Present Tense, Future Imperfect' here,

- Paths2Work video: Some of the people we interviewed talking about their experiences: Video link.

- A booklet for young people: Working your way in: what young people need to know about the jobs market.

Project duration:

Find out more about the project and meet the project team.

Project team members:

Kate Purcell (Principal Investigator) Peter Elias (IER)
Anne Green (now Birmingham University, previously IER)
Gaby Atfield (IER)
Arlene Robertson (IER)
Noel Whiteside (IER)
David Wilson (The Open University)
Phil Mizen (Aston University)
Melanie Simms (now University of Glasgow, previously Leicester University)
Matthew Cooper (IER)
Sharon Chohan (IER)

Project end date:

30 September 2017


Project duration:

June 2014 - September 2017

Project funded by:

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