By Daniel Hunter
The head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) will today (Wednesday) warn that a return to growth will not in itself solve the root causes of youth unemployment, and will call for renewed focus on the issue.
Speaking alongside Nick Clegg, David Miliband and leading business figures at the CBI’s Action for Jobs summit, John Cridland, CBI Director-General will urge businesses and government to work together to do more to give people the skills and opportunities they need to get jobs.
Mr Cridland will say: “Youth unemployment has been rising since 2004, so it’s clear that a return to growth alone will not be enough to tackle the underlying causes of the problem.
“Today’s young people are entering a complex world, and are making choices from the age of 13 that will define what they will be able to do with their lives. We ask a lot more of them in making their way in the world than was asked of previous generations.
“Unemployment blights lives. Imbalances in the economy — and between regions — mount up further, and the costs of those millions of people being out of work run into billions of pounds each and every year.
“The result is sharp divides between the haves and have-nots, and across generational lines. As employers we can and should step up to give all of our young people the support they deserve.”
The CBI is today (Wednesday) publishing an assessment of progress made since it published its Action for Jobs report last October. It says headway has been made on a £1 billion Youth Contract, but the range of available initiatives must be made simpler for employers.
The Government is cutting bureaucracy on apprenticeships, and has sensibly frozen the youth rates of the national minimum wage to help young, unskilled people remain affordable to employers.
Commenting, Mr Cridland will say: “The Youth Contract strikes the right balance, recognising the work each employer is doing for the wider community and giving them back more than National Insurance for the first part of employment.”
However, he will add: “The next challenge is making it simple for firms to get involved. This is an area where the Youth Contract needs to be made more successful. Many employers phoning the helpline in the early days didn’t receive the advice they needed.”
The CBI wants to see a simpler interface for employers who want to get involved. Mr Cridland will say: “There are 47 different employment initiatives for employers in England alone, which offer funding and support for businesses taking on and training young unemployed people. Busy firms need the whole process to be easier to navigate.
“Business will step up, but government has to meet it halfway. If ever there was a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees, this is it. Confusion dilutes well-intentioned policies and the impact they should have and we cannot have our young people being denied life-changing opportunities.”
Calling on employers to help tackle long-term unemployment, he will say:
“The Work Programme and the Youth Contract can play a key role in getting to the most difficult to reach, offering intensive support to people who have often been let down by the state. Business wants to be part of this, not out of a sense of corporate and social responsibility, but because the case for action is compelling for the long-term health of our economy and society.”
The CBI’s Action for Jobs Progress Report calls for fresh action by the Government, including:
· Aligning school funding with employment as well as academic outcomes
· Boosting school-business links in every local community with local organisers in every area making it easier to get involved in leading schemes
· Making work experience a statutory right for 14 to 16 year-olds
· Investing more in apprenticeships — both at a higher level and in pre-apprenticeship courses which help young people without skills get on high-quality training schemes
· Introducing a comprehensive ‘readiness-for-work’ assessment at Job Centre Plus, to help people focus on returning to work
To address longer-term challenges surrounding youth employment, the CBI is undertaking a major new project on education and the school system.
Responding to recent debates on examination reform, John Cridland will add:
“I welcome the debate that has now started on whether the GCSE curriculum is currently fit-for-purpose. Where we might differ from the Secretary of State for Education is not in the diagnosis, but in the solution. We think the question should be wider: what is the role of a summative exam at 16 in a system where all stay to 18, and how can the same rigour apply to those on vocational paths as academic ones?”
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