Young People's Aspirations in Rural Areas

Sarah Golden, Thomas Spielhofer, Kelly Evans

12 August 2011

Youth unemployment is a serious issue. The recent economic downturn and subsequent substantial reduction in public spending has had a negative impact on young people in the labour market. In rural areas, young people face distinct issues that can have a negative impact on their employment. Youth unemployment in rural areas is often believed to be caused by the low aspirations of young people themselves, their families and local communities. These are also linked to low educational achievements and post-16 participation rates in education. Low aspirations among young people and the wider community may be one of the key factors underlying this higher than average proportion of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET). The LG Group commissioned NFER to research young people’s aspirations in three rural local authorities (LAs): Suffolk, Lincolnshire and Cumbria. The aim was to explore the influence and impact of low aspirations. This report presents the findings from this research, which comprised a rapid review of literature and case-study visits to the three areas.

Key Findings

  • Only a minority of the young people studied appeared to have aspirations lower than expected given their predicted attainment at GCSE. This includes some pupils who have decided not to move away and wanted to pursue careers in their local, rural economy.
  • Significant influences on young people’s aspirations include: the cost and availability of transport to access post-16 education, training and employment; parents, positive role models, availability of employment opportunities and school-business links, and the pupils’ own attitudes towards risk.
  • There were more similarities than differences between the three areas studied. However differences within the areas affecting employment opportunities were also said to affect aspiration. These include proximity to frequent public transport, coastal areas, tourist centres, and large employers.
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