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Civil Service

Inside Policy: Unlocking the potential of young people

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Since 2014, the Civil Service has provided around 6,000 work placements every year to jobless youngsters. Here, Debbie Alder explains how Movement to Work helps crack the vicious ‘no experience - no job’ cycle to help youngsters nail their first step on the job ladder.

Young people have had it tough during COVID-19 – opportunities halted, social lives curtailed and in DWP we saw a 115% rise in young people claiming benefits at the height of the pandemic. While things have improved economically since 2020, there remains a significant gap in youth unemployment compared to the national picture. Supporting this important group, supporting those who are the future of our country, the future of our country’s success, has never been more important as an aspiration. 

Movement to Work (MtW) as an organisation supports employers to provide work placements that combine employability skills training with on-the-job experience. 

I got involved seven years ago, representing the Civil Service on the Steering Group along with the CEOs of M&S, BT, Centrica, Accenture, BAE Systems, Princes Trust, CBI and a senior TUC leader. 

Abuse, addiction and poverty

Image of Debbie Alder
Author Debbie Alder

Over the years, I’ve seen the impact we can have in providing structured and quality work experience for a young person on benefits. I’ve talked to young people facing significant barriers, such as abuse, addiction, poverty and mental health issues, who have been supported by partners such as the Princes Trust and DWP Jobcentres to help link them to placements and into permanent jobs and careers. It is both humbling and inspiring to hear their stories. 

Vicious circle

The ambition is to break the vicious circle of ‘no job – no experience’ that prevents young people who currently aren’t in education, employment or training from stepping onto the career ladder. This is vitally important, as it is well documented that there’s a scarring effect of unemployment, if experienced at the early stages of a young person’s career.   

Lasting social change

By supporting organisations in providing quality vocational employment and work experience placements, MtW helps both to drive business performance and bring about lasting social change. While MtW works with some of Britain's leading employers, the Civil Service has been very much involved since MtW was created. 

Since 2014, the collective Civil Service commitment to this national programme has historically been around 6,000 MtW placements a year across departments, with each placement lasting four to six weeks. 

Pandemic pause

Unfortunately, in March 2020, MtW placements across government were paused due to the pandemic and face-to-face delivery ceased to be a viable option. That had really difficult consequences because, despite a move to virtual delivery and the increasing need for these crucial placements, the number of placements delivered reduced dramatically.

Young people who have benefitted from Movement to Work meet with Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rt Hon Therese Coffey MP and Debbie Alder, DWP Director General People, Capability and Place at the MtW CEO Summit and Awards Ceremony
Young people who've benefitted from Movement to Work meet Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey MP and Debbie Alder, DWP Director General People, Capability and Place

However, MtW has continued to deliver and recently celebrated the milestone of enabling 135,000 placements for young people with a success rate of 56% of participants moving into education, training or employment. The Movement is now keen to build on this success and set an ambitious target for future delivery. 

Life-changing opportunity     

For some young people, MtW is a genuinely life-changing opportunity which develops new skills, improves job prospects and can lead to full-time and permanent employment.  

Bridge into work

As the Director General for People, Capability & Place in DWP, I’ve seen first-hand how MtW can make a difference to the lives of young people as well as being of benefit to the department. 

Samuel Meakings
Samuel Meakings

MtW Youth Ambassador Samuel Meakings spent years struggling to find permanent work, he now has a role helping young people into jobs throughout the pandemic: 

“I’ve come full circle. I’ve suffered the stress and lack of confidence that comes with a long path to the world of work, but starting with the Movement to Work programme, I spent the last few years building a career I love. Now I’m a Youth Employability Coach in DWP. The work is so rewarding, but I know first-hand that our young people need willing employers now more than ever.”

MtW is a fantastic way of reaching further into society and helping young people bridge into work.  It strengthens the policy thinking and insight we have if we’re delivering through partners, so it’s not just about big operational departments; it’s about bringing in that diversity of experience to really strengthen and ensure our relevance as departments of state – part of levelling up.

Huge thanks

I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to those who continue to work hard to find opportunities for young people and make MtW a success.  And of course personally, I’d like to extend my thanks to the courageous and determined work coaches within DWP who do a very valuable role in challenging circumstances.   

There’s more to do and I believe passionately that across the Civil Service we can play a vital role as we come out of the pandemic, and life and our work begins to return to some degree of normality.

I’d like to encourage you – everyone across the Civil Service, be this at departmental, executive agency or directorate level – to consider virtual, face-to-face, or hybrid MtW placements within your area as the need to help young people into work remains paramount.

Together, we can make a real difference. We transform lives every day in the Civil Service and this is our chance to give just a little bit more, at a time when the challenges young people face remain high.        

If you would like to offer a placement or require more details about running a virtual MtW placement, please contact the central DWP MtW team at MOVEMENTTO.WORKSCHEMEADMIN1@DWP.GOV.UK

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  1. Comment by Jonathan Simpson posted on

    Fantastic to see the comments above. CSC Recruitment Principles also permit MtW participants to be appointed on 2 year FTA's in the Civil Service should Departments have suitable roles. This is a great option to consider!

  2. Comment by John Adams posted on

    Movement to Work is a great programme where you actually see the positive impact it has, and you have, on the young people after just a few days. Not only does it provide knowledge, skills and experience but it helps build the confidence of each young participant.

    No matter what area of the Civil Service you work in - if you're interested in helping to make a difference then I'd thoroughly recommend getting involved in running a placement.

  3. Comment by Sarah Siggs posted on

    It has been a huge privilege to have been involved in MTW placements in HMRC (Liverpool). I was involved in pilot to offer 2 year FTA's at the end of a 4 week placement and of those who were offered FTA's they are all now permanent members of staff. One of my team leaders of 40 years experience described being involved in the MTW programme as being the most rewarding thing she had delivered in her career - and I cannot disagree with that. We paused activity for MTW as a result of COVID restrictions but I have more recently taken on responsibility with my colleague Joanne Shields to lead the MTW and other life-chances programmes for Debt Management in HMRC. Working with HR partners, we are about to advertise further placement opportunities under Movement to Work. Exciting times ahead.

  4. Comment by Claire Gourley posted on

    We are proud to support the Movement to Work programme at the Department for Transport. It has been so rewarding to see how much the young people grow during their placement. At DfT we have developed a programme of events which focuses on preparing participants for applying for 'live' apprenticeship recruitment opportunities. The skills developed during the programme really could provide life-changing opportunities for young people.

    I would highly recommend other Department's supporting this scheme and would be very happy to share our experience with others.

  5. Comment by Hannah posted on

    Having delivered the Movement to Work programme in the Department for Transport I have seen how much of an impact this programme can have on young people and it is a pleasure to be involved with it.

  6. Comment by Tom Munn posted on

    Movement to Work is an amazing programme and I am very proud to be part of the team helping DWP and the Civil Service delivery it to our young people.

    The continued success is only possible if we keep the young people at the heart of what and why we do it. I encourage any department to get involved and we in the DWP Central Movement to Work team promise to support you in the set up and delivery of your very own placement.

  7. Comment by Cliff Sale posted on

    The Movement to Work scheme provides a great opportunity to build work experience and I'm proud that HMRC supports this and has helped develop the offer further, so we can also offer jobs at the end through a recognised exception to normal CS recruitment processes.
    I would certainly recommend any Department not already involved to find out more about MtW and also consider whether they too can use a CS Commission Exception to support government employment programmes.