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Youth unemployment: could tech help?

Charlotte Jee | Oct. 26, 2015
Last week the Cabinet Office ran an all-day 'Job Hack' hackathon aimed at solving a long-term, intractable social issue: young people not in education, employment or training - dubbed 'NEETS'.

However developers warned that their ability to make apps in this area is restricted by a lack of access to data - a common gripe.

"The release of data is getting blocked in some departments, we have national not regional datasets, and some are released every two years, not in real time," one told ComputerworldUK.

And, if they are serious about addressing the issue of long-term youth unemployment, the government will have to think much bigger.

Fantastic though tech and web tools undoubtedly are, they are not a silver bullet and there are problems they can't solve on their own. Most of the issues around NEETs are complex and structural - knock-on effects of government policy, economics and demographic trends.

It's not to say that digital tools can't help - but if the government is serious about helping NEETs, it needs to examine the vast range of policies that affect them: policies on welfare and education, issues of crime, policing and our outdated drug laws, to name just a handful.

And that's before you even get onto the government's commitment to proper, in-depth digital transformation across Whitehall - which could make a huge impact on all of us and save billions, but seems unlikely to get the funding it needs from George Osborne in his autumn statement next month.

Unless the government vastly ramps up its ambition, tech and digital tools will only ever help to ease the situation, rather than achieve any truly transformative potential.


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