Could social networking online help NEET young people gain employment?

Mowbray, J., Hall, H., Raeside, R. (2015, June). Could social networking online help NEET young people gain employment?. Paper presented at Information: interactions and impact (i3) 2015, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland.



Presentation slides for this paper are available on SlideShare at

This paper first explores the literature pertaining to social networking in both off-line and online environments, and places it within the context of the study of employment opportunities. Particular focus is given to the prospective use of networking, as supported by social media tools, for helping young people who are NEET (not in education, employment or training) with job search and career development. It draws on work completed for a research project that is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Skills Development Scotland.

Participation in off-line social networks can have a positive effect on an individual’s well-being, and can aid in job search and career development (Fontaine, 2007; Gayen, Raeside & McQuaid, 2010; Granovetter, 1974; Seibert, Kraimer & Linden, 2001). However, studies have also shown that inequalities in social capital due to low socio-economic status can have a negative impact on an individual’s entry to the labour market (for example, Verhaeghe, Van der Bracht & Van de Putte, 2014). This is particularly pertinent to those in the NEET group, who are more likely to be socially deprived, and to have poor support networks (Bell & Branchflower, 2010; Finlay, Sheridan, McKay & Nudzor, 2010; Scarpetta, Sonnet & Manfredi, 2010).

With empirical evidence suggesting that social networking sites can be useful in providing (1) bonding, (2) bridging, and (3) maintained social capital to the user (Ellison, Steinfield & Lamp, 2007; Valenzuela, Park & Kee, 2009), there remains a broad scope to investigate the relevance of social media as tools to engender and attain social capital in the form of a user’s online network ties. As such, the second part of the paper discusses a study that addresses the following research questions:

1) What are the key off-line networking behaviours employed by the Scottish labour force for job search and career development?
2) How do social media tools support these behaviours?
3) How can networking supported by social media improve employability levels and help to achieve social inclusion?
4) How can networking supported by social media be incorporated into careers guidance in order to improve service delivery?

A mixed methods approach allows the following research questions to be addressed:

1) A survey to determine how middle managers use networking, supported by social media, for career development.
2) A survey to determine how unemployed clients of SDS use networking, supported by social media, for job search and career development.
3) A series of qualitative case study investigations to provide a deeper insight into the networking behaviours of the Scottish labour force , as supported by social media, and to uncover how agencies supported by SDS can provide an enhanced service to clients.

For the survey, organisations reflect different sectors, sizes and geographies. Stratification of respondents (3000, 300 of whom are unemployed) allow insight into how different demographic groups use social media, and their perceptions of the value of these types of tool.

This paper is relevant to the i3 conference themes in that it draws attention to the potential social and economic impacts of engagement with information relating to employment. This includes information on entering the labour market, and how a young person’s socio-economic conditions could play a decisive role in this process.


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Hazel Hall
Director of CSI
+44 131 455 2760
Robert Raeside
Professor (Affiliate to IIDI)
+44 131 455 4308
John Mowbray
Research Student
+44 131 455

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