Wales faces a “ticking time bomb” over the number of young people not in education, employment or training (Neet), according to Colleges Wales.
There are fears the Covid pandemic and recession will damage the prospects of a generation.
The number of Neets has increased in the last two years.
The Welsh Government said it would “tackle any increase in youth unemployment”.
Grace Williams, an electrical engineering apprentice with IAC in Newport, juggles studying for qualifications with working.
“If it’s something that you want to go into it’s well worth doing, 100%, because you get your experience and your qualification at the one time, and you get to earn money while doing it,” she said.
But for 20-year-old, Caitlyn Morgan from Fochriw, Caerphilly county, it feels like everything is against her as she tries to find a job.
She had a short work placement at a large retailer organised by the Prince’s Trust but it was just as Covid struck and there was no job at the end of it.
Caitlyn’s spent lockdown doing online courses but she’s not confident about her future.
“There’s a lot more people who have lost jobs and there’s a lot less jobs to go around and people like me who haven’t got a lot to offer experience-wise, we are not going to be the ones at the forefront,” she said.
“We’re going to be the ones at the back of the queue. So I feel like I’m going to be at a major disadvantage to find work.”
Chief executive of Colleges Wales Iestyn Davies said: “This could well be a ticking time bomb for the economy, it’s clearly not good for individuals who find themselves in this awful category of Neets”.
Young people not in employment, education or training
Proportion in Wales estimated by year
What do the figures tell us?
Between 2011 and 2017, the proportion of 16 to 18-year-old Neets fell.
According to the latest figures, the number rose from 10,800 in 2018 to 11,200 in 2019 – an increase from 10.6% to 11.1%.
The proportion of 19 to 24-year-old Neets continues to fall.
But the concern is that opportunities for young people like Caitlyn and Grace will be more limited in future as businesses face uncertainty.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said its £40m skills and jobs package will be key to “ensure that anyone over the age of 16 in Wales can access the advice and support they need to find work, pursue self-employment, find a place in education or training or be supported to start their own business”.