After years of steady reductions in joblessness, France’s progress on youth unemployment is threatened anew – this time by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whilst more young people are in work, education or training now than before the onset of the pandemic, policymakers will do well to remember that that youth unemployment following the 2007-2008 financial crisis did not peak until 7 years after the crisis.
The promise of youth employment support programmes
The French government has put youth unemployment at the heart of its plan for economic recovery and allocated significant funding in particular to strengthening youth employment support programmes.
Although these programmes come in different forms, most link young people to an advisor, who helps them look for training and employment opportunities. Many also give young people access to workshops and courses to improve their professional skills.
In some cases, the results of these support structures are striking. A recent evaluation of the U.S.’s Year Up initiative, which gives twelve months’ full-time training to young people from underprivileged backgrounds, found that participants went on to earn 30-40% more than their counterparts five years after leaving the programme.
Meanwhile in France, the success of the Garantie Jeunes, an intensive, year-long programme of support, has led the Conseil d’orientation des politiques de jeunesse to call for it to be made universally available to all young people in financial difficulty.
But these results are the exception rather than the rule: meta-evaluations have shown that, on average, youth support programmes have a small impact on employment relative to their cost.
Mon Parcours Pro: a pilot study with wider implications
So what distinguishes an impactful programme from a limited one?
One answer is the way they are delivered on the ground. Research conducted by BIT has found that the quality of day-to-day interactions between jobseekers and employment services can have a significant impact on engagement in job search and the rate of return to employment.
Since January 2020, we have been working with the Direction Interministérielle de la Transformation Publique (DITP), the Mission Locale de Paris, the Mission Locale d’Ivry-Vitry, and the French Ministry of Labour, on a project looking at ways to improve young people’s engagement and experiences with the Mission Locale.
Every year, France’s network of 440 Mission Locales help 1.3 million young people look for training and employment. In spring 2021, we’ll be piloting a new digital tool with the Paris branch, which aims to help young people prioritise their activities, stay motivated in their search for employment and maintain a regular dialogue with their advisor.
Mon Parcours Pro is the result of eight months of research conducted with the DITP on why young people sometimes abandon youth unemployment support programmes (report here).
It is a web application that will accompany young people from the start of their journey with the Mission Locale to the moment they enter training or employment.
Whilst the tool has many functionalities, the app revolves around three key behavioural levers, which we believe could have wider implications for the design of youth unemployment programmes:
- Chunking can help bridge the gap between an overall goal and a practical plan. One of the tricky aspects of designing youth support programmes is helping young people translate their goal into a series of concrete and actionable steps. Without support, young people can find it difficult to turn their vision into a plan, become dispirited in their search and, ultimately, abandon the support programme altogether.Mon Parcours Pro will try to tackle this by helping young people to construct and have sight of their pathway to employment or training, from start to finish. The tool will enable young people to deconstruct their long-term goal into stages, objectives and activities, breaking things down into distinct and manageable chunks.
- Self-efficacy is key to engagement. Participants in youth support programmes sometimes find that the focus is on
what qualifications or experiences they lack, rather than on what they possess. This can compound low self-efficacy or self-confidence linked to previous bad encounters with public institutions and a lack of job search experience, again leading to potential abandonment.Mon Parcours Pro will seek to change this dynamic by enabling young people to create and complete simple tasks, visualise their progress and celebrate their accomplishments. A system of achievements will reward young people for certain feats, and advisors will be able to send personalised congratulations when they make progress. The result, we hope, will be that young people feel emboldened to continue.
- Timely prompts and planning can help young people keep track of their commitments and stay on top of their search. Many young people enrolled in employment support programmes deal with multiple competing demands at any one time, ranging from care responsibilities to instability of housing. This, coupled with a lack of exposure to the routine associated with training and employment, means that some young people can forget meetings and workshops, or lose the grip on their search for training and employment.Mon Parcours Pro will support young people to keep on top of their job search, by encouraging users to plan when, where and how they will complete tasks. Young people will be able to receive reminders and notifications related to their activities, the workshops they have signed up to attend and the appointments with their job advisors. These features develop on our work with UK Job Centres, which helped many return to the labour market.
We will be piloting Mon Parcours Pro in the spring and will report back on our findings in autumn.
The diagnostic report for this project can be found on the DITP’s website, here. If you would like to discuss this work further, please contact email@example.com for more information.