Action needed to avoid lost generation of recession school leavers – NECC

THE Government and the North East business community need to work together to prevent recession-time school leavers falling into an unemployment trap, according to new data.

 The North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) has produced a report highlighting that employment rates among young people in the region who left school during the recession have slumped. Over a three-year period from January 2007, the employment rate in 18 to 24-year-olds fell from 64%  to 53%. The steepest decline occurred from January 2009 with a fall of 8%.

 The figures contrast starkly with their younger peers that left as the recovery accelerated who have witnessed a marked upturn in their employability. Employment in 16 to 17-year-olds fell gradually between January 2007 to January 2009 – down 7% – but has bounced back by 3% over the past 12 months. This trend has run counter to all other parts of the UK where employment in that age group has continued to fall.

NECC has set out five steps that need to be taken by both the Government and businesses to ensure that the teenagers that went into the jobs market during the downturn do not end up as long-term unemployed with no work history on their CVs when job opportunities do arise.

 Ross Smith, NECC head of policy, said: “There is a risk of a substantial group of young people becoming disengaged from the labour market and struggling to demonstrate their employability as a result. Young people in the North East who currently find themselves of out a job can take heart from the message that job opportunities will re-emerge in greater numbers. However they must be ready to take advantage of them.”

 One of the clearest routes out of this problem is continued investment in apprenticeships as well as providing support for businesses that are in a position to support young people onto the career ladder.

 Mr Smith said: “The Government’s commitment to apprenticeships is welcome. Investing in apprenticeships for more of these young people now will address an immediate unemployment problem and ensure the North East is prepared for its future skills needs.”

 The five steps NECC proposes to securing a long-term future for recession-time school leavers are as follows:

  • Maintaining the financial support needed to de-risk what is a long-term investment
  • Specifying apprenticeship standards in a way which maximises productivity to the employing business and reduces unnecessary classroom time, particularly where this repeats previous learning
  • Flexibility to ensure an apprenticeship can be easily transferred in the unfortunate event of the original employer being unable to sustain the programme
  • Creating a transparent market place to enable employers to quickly commit to training providers and courses which demonstrably meet their needs
  • Supporting those who do commit including by recognising the value of this investment when taking decisions on public sector contract awards
  • Supporting companies that commit to apprenticeships, including by taking the value of this investment into account when making decisions on public sector contract awards.

 NECC’s latest quarterly economic survey, the North East Business Barometer, demonstrated that businesses in the region have a commitment to improving the skills of their workforce. But, tough trading times had made it more important than ever to have support in paying for training.

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