November 2013

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Written by Elizabeth Eyre on 1 November 2013 in Magazine

Youth unemployment and what we can do - or should be doing - about it continues to be in the news.

According to statistics released by the government last month, almost one million 16- to 24-year-olds were unemployed between June and August of this year (958,000 to be exact) - an unemployment rate of 21 per cent. If you take out the young people who were in fulltime education, there were still 660,000 members of that age group unemployed.

The figures are high (the unemployment rate for 16- and 17-year-olds is a staggering 36.3 per cent) and don't appear to be getting any better - the overall unemployment figure for 16- to 24-year-olds is up half a per cent on the same quarter last year and the number of unemployed youngsters not studying is the same as it was 12 months ago.

Apprenticeships, and now traineeships, still seem to be the central plank of the government's strategy for helping young people into the workplace. As this edition of TJ  went to press, skills minister Matthew Hancock launched the government's new implementation strategy, drawn up in response to the Richard Review of Apprenticeships.

It remains to be seen whether the strategy will address issues raised by Doug Richard such as greater involvement by employers, ensuring a high standard of training and work for apprentices, and ensuring that apprenticeships are attached to new roles rather than used as publicly-funded training for people in their existing jobs. It is to be hoped that it does: apprenticeships, and vocational education in general, can offer young people who are not interested in academic study routes to satisfying and productive careers. But the 'brand' must be protected from employers who seek to exploit it, young people and the public funding system before the good it is starting to do is wasted.

A group of employers who are passionate about getting young people into the workplace came together recently to talk about the issue. Including representatives of Barclays, npower and Ernst & Young, they were participants in a roundtable discussion hosted by TJ at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. They discussed numerous aspects of the issue of getting young people into work, from whether employability skills such as teamwork and communication are more important to an employer than A-C grades in maths and English GCSEs to whether the apprenticeship system is a success.

The debate went on for two hours and revealed a serious desire by these employers at least to address the problem of unemployment among young people, a lot of empathy for the situation many youngsters find themselves in, and energy and creativity in how they've already put apprenticeship and other programmes in place. It also revealed a lot of strong opinions on the issue and a commitment that other employers would do well to emulate.

You can read about some of the debate on p9, and hear more from the participants via the home page of the TJ website.

Elizabeth Eyre, Editor



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