Bringing hope to future employment

Dreams of a future generation are being scrapped as more than 1 million young people are still out of work, education and training. According to the Local Government Association, 50,000 fewer jobless young people are getting help from job schemes today than was the case three years ago. Resources are being used inefficiently, and the current system is over-complicated with 35 different national schemes across 13 different age boundaries costing £15billion a year, which includes the Work Programme- which gives support to welfare claimants who need more help looking for and staying in work. It includes Youth Contracts, which create opportunities including apprenticeships and work experience but unfortunately, only 27% of 16 and 17-year-olds starting the government’s Youth Contract were helped into training or work.

With our economy stagnating and youth unemployment on the rise, we are in desperate times of need to create jobs and opportunities in sectors demanded and create reforms – it is not being young that makes you unemployed, but being young, unskilled and failing to match employers’ demands. A striking exception to the European norm is Germany, with youth unemployment at only 7.5% – in comparison to 21.4% in the UK. The German economy is the strongest in Europe, but Germany also has far fewer unskilled young people because of the success of its apprenticeship system. Among Britain’s school-leavers, one in three now go straight to higher education; barely one in 10 take an apprenticeship. Due to Germany’s Dual Vocational Training System, many believe is the reason why Germany has the lowest jobless rate among young people of any industrialized nation in the world. Apprenticeships are an integral part of the education system, where some 60% of school leavers undertake an apprenticeship through the Dual System, that is, part-time at a workplace and part time at a vocational school.

As a nation, we need to focus on the expansion of apprenticeships in demanding sectors – the National Apprenticeship Service says competition is as high as 17 per place in the arts, media and IT. The most popular area for apprenticeships was business and administration, with 101,510 applications made and only 7,702 vacancies posted online. Through the Labour Party – of which I am Vice chair for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Young Labour –  we must work on incorporating and boosting the image of apprentices, and increase their numbers, with apprenticeships being as valued as a university degree in the long term and make employers realise the distinct advantages. We must strengthen and build partnerships with employers across UK, and extend the duration of apprenticeships to at least 2 years. Information about apprenticeships is poor. The National Apprenticeships Service advertises some nationwide, but there is no marketing and co-ordination of places and applications on a par with the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service for higher education. UCAS should become a clearing house for apprenticeships, starting with higher level apprenticeships, as well as for higher education places.

We need to equip our future generation with the necessary skills and provide opportunities for young people to get trained and gain experience. Schools, colleges and universities play an important role in a student’s life and we must work harder to connect experts with young people, and make sure that current national schemes are effective in getting our young people in employment.

An innovative example of tackling youth unemployment is how members of the Waitrose Personnel team for Cambridgeshire will start running monthly sessions in conjunction with HMP/YOI (Young Offenders Institution) in Littlehey, to give participants an understanding of the food industry and the job application and selection process. The sessions will give those taking part a better insight into the area, including how to complete a CV, job application forms and interview techniques. This is a fantastic approach to unemployment, and we should encourage future schemes whereby employers, develop and train young people.

Current services provided for people are not as effective as they intended out to be. Young people are frustrated by their experiences of Jobcentre Plus and skills training, with 65% of these saying this was because Jobcentre Plus did not tell them anything new, and almost a half found college training unhelpful by not giving them the right skills. According to LGA (representing more than 370 councils in England and Wales), nearly 60% of young people surveyed felt there is not enough support. Half of the unemployed youngsters said they did not find key national services helpful, with 46% of these saying they are not given the right skills to find a job.

It is important that we figure out how and where young people connect with employers, by using new spaces and conversations, helping young people to train and develop, by changing attitudes to finding and creating work in the 21st Century. We need to bring back hope because only through hope, change and determination will we ever make a real difference. Only by listening to the future generation, including them in decision making, creating connections, building bridges, will we ever be able to recover back our economy.