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Rosi Prescott

Central YMCA


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L&D is crucial to combatting youth unemployment


There's still a way to go in getting youth unemployment down. Rosi Prescott sets out her manifesto.

While there has been a general feeling of positivity recently surrounding the reduction in youth unemployment, we were dealt a blow last week as new figures released indicated the number of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds who have been unemployed for over a year has risen by almost 50% since 2010 [1]. Though general unemployment is going down (the number of 16-24 year olds who are not currently in education, development or training has reduced over the past year), these new figures paint a worrying picture.

In my opinion, the new government could either see this as an issue, or preferably an opportunity. Either way, the worst thing decision makers could do is become content with the fact that - in general - youth unemployment is falling. There's clearly still much more to be done, as last week's news demonstrated. We don't want decision makers to sit back and wait for the economic recovery to take its course. By doing this, the country will be left in danger of not actively working to reduce unemployment figures further.

Indeed, almost one million young people are still feeling the effects of the last recession and currently excluded from employment or education. Through helping young people access training and apprenticeship schemes, the younger generation will be able to make knowledgeable decisions about their careers, which should in theory lead to increased employment rates.

Through helping our younger generation we will be able to prevent them (and future generations) from feeling lost or deprived of career opportunities. If we adopt a forward-thinking approach moving forward, youth unemployment need not be a problem for the UK in the future. Turning the page on youth unemployment will not only boost the economy and save billions in public finance, but will also significantly reduce crime, increase productivity, and support businesses suffering from skills shortages.

Unfortunately, statistics released by the House of Commons last month showed there were 70,000 fewer apprenticeships started in England in the 2013/14 academic year than the previous year – something I see as a real shame. True, there are other paths young people can take to access training and development but apprenticeships are an excellent way to earn at the same time as gaining skills in a hands-on environment.

I am pushing for the current barriers hindering youth employment to be addressed by the next government - with access to apprenticeships being a huge part of this. The ‘Pathways to Employment Manifesto 2015’, was launched at the House of Commons at the beginning of the month and calls for changes to current practices that we feel are limiting opportunities.

The key recommendations of the manifesto can be outlined in eight points that are aimed at schools, businesses, and training providers, all whom have a responsibility to improve youth unemployment in the UK:

  1. Changes to how Ofsted grades training providers that run programmes for hard-to-reach groups. More emphasis should be placed on the context of training and the learner’s journey than on final grades
  2. Greater workplace engagement between schools and local businesses
  3. Full-cost recovery for training to those aged 19 and older in certain sectors where it‘s not possible to employ younger apprentices such as healthcare or personal training
  4. A review of careers guidance policy in schools to better help young people make crucial decisions about their futures
  5. Removal of the 16-hour rule for young people in full-time skills study programmes
  6. An end to the negative impact on housing benefits which is causing many young people to abandon their training
  7. Prompt conclusion of and reporting on Trailblazer pilot phases, to ensure related funding models provide greater flexibility
  8. To improve the service of Jobcentre Plus in getting young people into work and to increase partnerships with training providers and local businesses

Following last week's announcement concerning the widening gap in long-term youth unemployment between white young people and those from ethnic minority backgrounds, I'm also calling for an inquiry into the effectiveness of Jobcentre Plus. I recommend Jobcentre Plus makes greater efforts to partner with training providers, and by doing so, maximises the impact of its initiative to offer work coaches to assist under-18s to secure work experience and pre-apprenticeship courses. I believe that by doing this, along with a number of other changes, the effectiveness of the service will increase greatly.

Rosi Prescott is CEO of Central YMCA


Further details of Central YMCA’s research into the impact of youth unemployment can be seen in YMCA’s Two Futures Report, which was release alongside the manifesto last week.


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