Government plan lists five priorities, but concerns over access to advice and guidance


At the moment, almost one in ten of our young people are unemployed and not in full‑time study. The recession has certainly made things worse but it is also true that  many of the barriers that  prevent our young people from getting a job are  long term. The Government has a plan to support youth looking for employment. ‘Supporting Youth Employment’. On the Office for National Statistics (ONS) measure there are almost 670,000  16–24‑year‑olds who are unemployed and not in  full‑time study. Using the Government’s standard measure for 16–17‑year‑olds shows that there are 72,000 not in education, employment or training (NEET). The headline 670,000 Figure represents  9% of the cohort. This is in comparison to 12%  after the 1990s recession. The unemployment rate, which includes those in full‑time education  and is expressed as a proportion of the active  labour force rather than the total cohort, is higher  than this, at 20%. Spending time NEET for six months or more  at a young age is a major predictor of later  unemployment as well as having wider costs for  society in terms of welfare payments, costs to  health and criminal justice services, and loss of tax  and national insurance revenue.

The Government has five priorities for action for supporting youth employment, working with businesses, local government, voluntary  groups and local communities.

Raising attainment and ensuring that young people have  the skills they need to compete in a global economy,  including through quality vocational education and training.

Helping young people at risk of falling through the net,  by supporting local partners to provide effective,  co‑ordinated services.

Encouraging employers in both the public and private sectors to help inspire young people and to offer more work experience, internships and Apprenticeship  opportunities to young people.

Promoting personal responsibility by ensuring that work pays and that those on out‑of‑work benefits who can work prepare and search for work effectively.

Creating the wider conditions for balanced, sustainable   growth, including through protecting and extending the flexibilities of the UK labour market.

The big problem, of course, is that support and guidance services at the local authority  level have in some cases seen cuts of 50%  and there is widespread concern over how effective schools will be at providing for example face to face guidance for pupils as their spending priorities may lie elsewhere. While schools will have a duty  under the new Education Bill  to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance for their pupils from September 2012,  it is left up to schools  to decide the  appropriate balance between web-based, telephone and face to face support. Given that face to face professional advice is the more expensive option, schools which are under considerable financial pressure, are likely to opt for more cheaper but less effective options, such as web based advice. What will happen, one wonders, to the original vision articulated by Ministers of an all age independent careers service? And where is the funding for such a service coming from? And how will  reduced access to face to face advice  affect the ability of our children to make informed choices from aged 13 onwards? I think we know the answer.

Simon Hughes MP  is  in the process of finishing  a  report for the government on the careers  service and the implications for access to further and higher education, and he said recently in the Commons ”  I am  very clear not only that there should be a careers service available for every secondary school child, but that it should include a personalised service. It is not  enough that everyone should have access to a telephone service or an online  service or be given a book. ” Who could disagree with that?


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