Finance

Government sent long list of recommendations to tackle youth unemployment

A long list of recommendations to tackle the “blight” of youth unemployment in the UK has been sent to the Government.

The demands – which include a call for a Young People’s Commissioner to champion the voice of people aged 16 to 24 – have been compiled by the House of Lords committee on youth unemployment, which includes a number of former Cabinet Ministers as members and has been chaired by former Newcastle City Council leader Lord Shipley.

After hearing months of evidence, the committee has produced a report with more than 80 individual recommendations, pointing to the level of action needed to tackle what it calls a “blight on our society”.

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It said the youth unemployment rate of 11.7% was worse than many other comparable countries, but that funding for further education had fallen by more than 50% since 2010 and that skills shortages in key industries are not being met by young people.

It added that 70% of job losses during the pandemic were of people under the age of 25, with predictions that the economic cost of youth unemployment could reach £10bn next year.

The report, which heard stinging evidence on the state of the education and skills sector from major businesses including Nissan, calls on the Government to bring in a better strategy to train young people for emerging jobs and to break down barriers which make it harder for youngsters in disadvantaged areas to get good skills.

Lord Shipley said: “If you went back 18 months, there was a huge worry that furlough might not work and that a lot of young people would become unemployed. That hasn’t happened but the problem still remains that too many young people are in insecure employment through the gig economy

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Lord John Shipley, former leader of Newcastle City Council and Liberal Democrat Councillor

“Our report is about harnessing the talents of every young person and giving them the skills they need to get a good job and a sustainable career.”

The committee wants digital skills to be a core component of schooling from primary ages, and recommends a programme of providing laptops and free connectivity for people in disadvantaged areas.

It also wants children to get 100 hours of work experience before they leave school to better prepare them for the world of work, and to ban unpaid internships of more than four weeks that are seen to favour youngsters from wealthier families.

The committee adds that “successive Governments have failed to give further education the focus and support it deserves”, calling for colleges to get the same level of funding as universities.

Members of the committee include former Chancellor Lord Ken Clarke, one time Home Secretary Lord Kenneth Baker and former BBC director-general Lord Hall.

It gathered oral and written evidence from more than 150 witnesses, including current Ministers, leading businesses, academics and educationalists.

Lord Shipley added: “Youth unemployment has blighted our society for decades and its impact can endure for years. At 11.7%, the UK’s youth unemployment rate continues to be worse than many other countries, and today more than one in eight (12.6%) of our under 25s are neither working nor in full-time study.

“Over 10 months, we spoke to young people with experience of unemployment, employers, school leaders and experts. Our report makes over 70 recommendations which would help to tackle youth unemployment. We urge the Government to act.”

The report comes after the Prince’s Trust charity warned that the legacy of the pandemic will be a “crisis of confidence” among young people unless they receive increased support.

Meanwhile, a study by the National Audit Office has raised doubts that the Kickstarter scheme set up by the Government to prevent a significant rise in youth unemployment is having the intended effect.

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Automotive giant Nissan has hit out at the “disastrous” education system in the UK, which it says does not equip young people for jobs in manufacturing and engineering.

In evidence to the House of Lords committee on youth unemployment, the company said that the country is “failing” on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and isn’t preparing young people for the rapid changes coming in the world of work.

The company told the committee: “The national curriculum does not equip people with the skills required for the advanced manufacturing and engineering sectors.

“That design and technology stop at Key Stage 3 is disastrous, the time lag of introducing a national program also is not keeping pace with changes in technology. In the next 10 years we are expecting as much change as has happened in last 100. The current English Baccalaureate (current 75% expectation that children will complete rising to 90% by 2025) focuses on children staying on in education and has no design or technology component.

“Schools monitor progress and attainment which rarely if ever include technology based topics. Schools focus on science and maths and not engineering and technology; as a country we are failing at broad STEM education.”

The committee also heard criticism of the current system from the North East LEP.

It said: “Further Education funding in general has been in decline since 2010 and is not currently sufficient to deliver much needed quality and additionality required to meet the needs of young people. The current funding envelope only allows for core aspects of curriculum delivery rather than investment in the additional and essential skills required to succeed in the labour market.”

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