Speaking in the meeting, hosted by
the Work Foundation,
Lizzie Crowley, asserted that a solution to the record falls in youth unemployment could not be found in job recovery alone.
However, “many young people are still under unemployed and want more hours, whilst often receiving low pay” said
Crowley, head of youth unemployment programme for
the Work Foundation
There was also the well known problem of school to work transition which causes long term problems for the UK economy and youth, notably those who have not made the transition successfully and are NEETs, not-in-education, employment or training.
Crowley recognised that there had been headway from the coalition government, but added it was “low level progress”. She also said career guidance had never been of good quality in the UK and schools were now struggling with additional career responsibilities which they were not yet equipped to deliver.
Kevin Munday, director of ThinkForward at Impetus, agreed it was important to help more young people make a successful school to work transition.
He added that employers had a role to support young people as they were disproportionately unemployed, and suggested stronger links between education and employers.
Munday cited East London, where ThinkForward ran its programme working with young people, but only a relatively small number took part.
“We need better careers advice” he argued. “A 45 minute interview with a careers adviser is not enough. We need every professional in a school to support young people in their career decision and we need better support for parents.”
Baroness Garden of Frognalsaid she was an unashamed champion of vocational education from her previous role at City and Guilds.
The Lib Dem peer said there had been complaints that many school leavers were not ready for the workplace. She also noted that other nationals from different European countries had more of a ready-for-work culture and this quality gap needed to be addressed.
She agreed the limited time students had with school career advisors was inadequate, and that the advisors were often overworked with other subject teachers undertaking careers as additional roles. Baroness Garden also cited the important role in London of livery companies with some of the wealth of the City of London working with some of the poorest boroughs in the UK.
It was important to further develop these links and for apprenticeships to be truly treated as a parallel route for young people alongside university, she said, adding that “giving youngsters the skills and enthusiasm to start training should be equivalent to university degrees.”
Lib Dem MP Stephen Lloydsaid the Government was “stumbling towards a solution” on youth unemployment and was glad that progress was finally being made on reducing NEETs. He said that NEETs had been increasing for the five years before the 2010 elections and was glad they were now reducing.
Lloyd said it was important to weigh up the skills and vacancies in the jobs market, with five times as many people wanting to work in the hair and beauty sector than there were vacancies.
He also mentioned it was important to work to simplify the professional qualification sector with 18,000 qualifications from 150 awarding bodies currently available in the UK, whilst Germany offered only 350 qualifications.
Lloyd spoke of his own local apprenticeships campaign in Eastbourne where he achieved 181 apprenticeships in 100 days, with a conversion rate of 93% achieving a permanent position afterwards.
The MP also agreed the current career provisions in schools were not strong enough and argued for a system with the best people and funding for careers in schools. He added that there was a relational gap, as most teachers had university degrees and were not fully equipped to advise young people on apprenticeship opportunities.
He concluded by saying a Royal College of Apprentices was needed to monitor quality and promote apprenticeships on an equal footing to degree level study, and said if he was re-elected in 2015 he would continue to campaign for this.
Kate Shoesmith, head of policy at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), said for recruiters this had been the worst recession experienced and it had taken six years to get back to growth. She added however, that there was still the highest number of vacancies in 17 years.
“We are crying out for more chefs as well as drivers given the rise in internet shopping.”
There were huge issues for businesses recruitment because if employers could not find the right staff they often went out of business, she explained.
Shoesmith added that REC went into schools to work with young people, highlighting the ‘Skills Tree’ programme for young people, which was run with a simple pack of cards listing career options like top trumps. She described how one adult could easily run a session for up to 30 young people with this programme in place.
She concluded by saying employers needed to pay real attention to the labour market data and to fully understand local and regional differences in employment.