Should the term NEET be banned?

Hull Youth Enterprise, ably assisted by Charles Cracknell, are looking to campaign to change the culture around the term NEET (Not in Education, Employment and Training) and replace it with the term GREET (Getting Ready Employment (inc Enterprise) Education & Training) at least in the city of Hull, and maybe even at a national level. We certainly think that there is a level of negativity around “NEET” which is usually not warranted at all. Archomai work with Cat.Zero, whose young people are all classed as NEETs. We’ve not met any that match the usual definition of NEET – other than the specific words used in the acronym – Not in Education, Employment or Training.

I am not sure that changing the name is the right approach though. NEET was a political term required to “neatly” identify a group of people who the government of the day wished to target. Changing the name is unlikely to change the apparently accepted view that NEETs/GREETs are lazy, good for nothings living off the state.

We think that changing the NEET word is perhaps the wrong target. By definition, NEET (and GREET) are creating an ageist divide. I was recently at a regional strategy meeting on Employability and the discussion was limited to young people under the age of 25, or preferably under the age of 18 or even better under the age of 11. This is ignoring the people over the age of 25 who have skills, but do not have the skills that are currently required, hence they have an employability issue. It ignores the people over the age of 25 who had bad experiences when younger: prison, drugs, etc., but have now “cleaned up their act”. They are also NEETs, but they are not in the age profile usually used.

Whenever Archomai work with change in organisations, the easiest part is to change the name or the manual. The difficult part is changing what people actually do and think. Perhaps, in this case, it would be better to focus on the needs of people who cannot find work and then differentiate on the ways we can help – regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation, colour of skin. religion, or anything else.

Employability, which is what we are really talking about, is personal. Everyone has different needs. It covers a range of potential issues: skills, well being, fitness, functional skills, personal attitudes, confidence, team working, and many more. These are not age related issues, so why focus young people with the NEET tag. Let’s broaden the scope to remove the stigma and remove NEET from the dictionary? Then let’s get on with giving practical help to people who need it.

Cat.Zero and Hull Youth Partnership are good examples of what can be achieved. Let’s look five years out and provide the training facilities to make sure we have a workforce that can deliver the vision. That’s wind turbines, but it is also City of Culture, caravans, ports, logistics, chemicals, agriculture, food processing, and much more. How can we train people (of all ages and experience) so that when the economic upturn comes, we don’t end up importing the trained people from other parts of the UK and Europe? Is that neat thinking?


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