NEET calling is not neat

Lately I’ve been doing some work with public sector organisations on the issue of young people in employment and enterprise. Unemployment among young people is a major issue in the UK and I believe all sectors of the community have a part to play in addressing this.

What strikes me is the way young people are labelled. NEET is a term commonly used by government departments, councils and public sector agencies to describe young people ‘Not in Employment, Education or Training’. What I find disturbing is that the term is used so frequently that NEETs have come to represent a sub-group of the community identified with failure.

While the reasons for young people attaining ‘NEET’ status are complex and those young people themselves share part of the huge responsibility to resolve the problem, I don’t think they are helped by being branded NEETs or failures.

Apparently, the term NEET was invented in the UK and, ironically, the first recorded use was by the Government’s now-defunct Social Inclusion Task Force. Now there is stigma attached to the term and I believe its use is insulting.

If we want these young people to enter employment, education and training, I suggest we start by treating them with courtesy and as people. If they throw this back, it is no excuse to call names. We have continue to help them to turn their own lives around. It’s a tough challenge.

But if we outlaw the use of NEET, what should the Department for Work and Pensions, Jobcentre Plus and other agencies call this group? Does it matter? Will it not just be another label or piece of jargon? Isn’t there more important work for us all to do than worry about labels?

• Robert Zarywacz started please and thanks with his brother, Simon Zarywacz, to promote courtesy in UK business. Robert is also courtesy consultant with the National Campaign for Courtesy. He has written business articles for a number of publications and blogs and runs Zarywacz, a communications partnership, with Simon at z2z.com.

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