By Daniel Hunter

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) have welcomed Nick Clegg's announcement of a new scheme aimed at helping 16-17 year olds not in education, employment or training (NEETs).

The scheme will see £126 million invested in order to get 55,000 teenagers in England with poor qualifications who are currently not in education, employment or training into work.

“It is good news that the Government has responded to business pressure to ensure that 16-17 year olds are included when the Youth Contract launches in April," Neil Carberry, CBI Director for Employment & Skills policy, said.

“This announcement is a step forward, but we remain concerned that this programme does not go far enough. We still need to see urgent action in schools to minimise the risk of young people becoming ‘NEETs’ in the first place, through better careers and study advice and improved business-school links.

“It is right that private and third-sector providers are tasked with delivering this initiative on a payment-by-results basis, but they will need to work closely with local authorities, schools and other public agencies to make sure the scheme delivers.”

Katerina Rüdiger, Skills Policy Adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said the move is welcomed, but is not before time.

“The CIPD has consistently warned that overplayed ‘lost generation’ rhetoric around youth unemployment risks diverting attention away from the persistent and serious structural element of youth unemployment — affecting around 10% of young people in good economic times and bad," she said.

"In that context, we welcome today’s announcement of a scheme specifically targeted at the most difficult-to-reach groups with the poorest qualifications.

“Well before the recession hit, the CIPD was finding a marked preference amongst employers to recruit people with more experience, even to entry level jobs — to the detriment of young school leavers.

"However, we’ve also seen, through initiatives we’re running to give young people access to voluntary guidance and mentoring from our members, that young people can quickly have their confidence and ability to impress employers boosted sufficiently to find work. We also know that employers who do hire young school leavers have far more positive views of the potential of younger employees than those who do not.

“If we can break the cycle of no experience, no job, there is a real opportunity to boost employer perceptions of young people, and spare the economy the negative consequences of a significant minority of young people who grow up with little experience of work. Research shows that the more contact young people have with employers, the better their chances of finding themselves in stable employment. Targeting employability support at people who’d likely struggle to find work even in times of stronger economic performance is the right approach.

"Those with very low qualifications and no experience of the workplace are the ones genuinely most at risk of the scarring effect of youth unemployment. The earlier government and employers working together can get to these people and give them genuine support and experience of the workplace, the better. The enduring challenge, of course, is creating the economic performance necessary to create more jobs for all categories amongst the growing ranks of the unemployed.”

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