We must do better on apprenticeships

With more than 1 million young people in UK still out of work, there is a real need to create opportunities for young people.

Roxana Andrusca is chair of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Young Labour and an ambassador for Global Poverty.

With more than 1 million young people in UK still out of work, there is a real need to create jobs and opportunities and find ways of getting our future generation trained and employed.

Current services provided for people in the UK are not as effective as they should be. Young people are often frustrated by their experiences of Jobcentre Plus and skills training, with 65 per cent of these saying that this was a result of Jobcentre Plus not telling them anything new. Almost half also found college training unhelpful by not giving them the right skills.

According to LGA (representing more than 370 councils in England and Wales), nearly 60 per cent of young people surveyed felt there was not enough support for them.

The evident discontent of young people with current unemployment services is just one of the reasons it is so important that the UK government implements the Youth Guarantee Scheme.

Countries such as Netherlands and Austria (where youth unemployment is far lower) operate a so-called ‘youth guarantee’, where young people under 25 who are out of work are automatically given a training place or job offer within four months of them leaving formal education or becoming unemployed.

An EU-wide ‘Youth Guarantee’ has been agreed at EU level, but has not yet been implemented in the UK. Developing and delivering a Youth Guarantee scheme requires strong cooperation between all the key stakeholders: public authorities, employment services, career guidance providers, education & training institutions, youth support services, business, employers, and trade unions leading to a more effective employment model.

Finland is an example that has witnessed success from having developed a comprehensive Youth Guarantee scheme. A Eurofound evaluation found that, in 2011, 83.5 per cent of young job seekers received a successful offer within three months of registering as unemployed.

From a different angle, we need to focus on the expansion of apprenticeships in demanding sectors – the National Apprenticeship Service says competition is as high as 17 per place in the arts, media and IT. The most popular area for apprenticeships was business and administration, with 101,510 applications made and only 7,702 vacancies posted online.

Through the Labour Party – of which I am chair for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Young Labour – we must work on incorporating and boosting the image of apprentices, and increase their numbers, with apprenticeships being as valued as a university degree in the long term and make employers realise the distinct advantages.

We must also strengthen and build partnerships with employers across UK, and extend the duration of apprenticeships to at least 2 years.

Information about apprenticeships is poor. The National Apprenticeships Service advertises some nationwide, but there is no marketing and co-ordination of places and applications on a par with the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service for higher education. UCAS should become a clearing house for apprenticeships, starting with higher level apprenticeships, as well as for higher education places.

We need to increase awareness and inform our young people of EU opportunities available and work closer with EU countries to tackle youth unemployment.

For example, the German government’s take on helping tackle youth unemployment on a wider scale is to offer British apprentices educated to A-level standard a work-and-study package, including wages of nearly £700 a month after tax plus 170 hours of free language lessons. British apprentices will receive relocation costs, two expenses-paid visits a year home, plus training at one of Germany’s highly-regarded vocational schools.

It is important that we work out how and where young people connect with employers by using new spaces and conversations applicable to the 21st Century.

As a nation, we need to bring back hope because only through hope, change and determination will we ever make a real difference. Only by listening to the future generation, including them in decision making, building bridges, will we ever be able to recover back our economy.

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