By Maximilian Clarke

Deputy Prime minister Nick Clegg this morning announced his youth charter: a £1bn initiative to get the UK’s million jobless youth into training or employment.

Given the extent of the current employment crisis, media coverage has been extensive and unions, pundits and think tanks have all been quick to express their opinions.

For what might well be the first time in history, the UK’s biggest trades union, Unite, and the libertarian, free-market think-tank, the Adam Smith Institute, appear to agree with each other; labelling the move as an unjustifiably expensive political gesture that will at best yield short-term results.

“This ‘idea’ is nothing more than a short-term exercise that will do very little to address the real problem that is blighting this country. Youth unemployment is currently at a record high and this initiative will do little more than massage these figures,” said a Unite Spokesperson.

“…Another Gordon Brown-style government 'initiative' is not the way to get young people into work,” said the ASI’s director, Eamonn Butler. “We need to reduce the cost and the risk that employers face when taking on young people.”

This is of course as far as the apparent agreement reaches, with the ASI advocating slashing employee regulation and scrapping the minimum wage: policies over which Unite would doubtless strike without end to retain.

Though they welcomed Clegg’s Youth Contract, the British Chambers of Commerce shared the Institute’s desire to see regulation stripped in order to lower barriers to employment, as the Chambers’ policy director, Dr. Adam Marshall comments:

“The government has to make it easier for businesses to hire young people. Employers often spend a large amount of time and money training up those young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs). The proposal to pay employers half of the minimum wage payment for the first six months will help businesses offset this cost.

The Confederation of British Industry, the UK’s foremost business lobby frequently caution the extent of the skills shortage amongst job applicants. The manufacturing recovery, they argue, is being stymied by the unemployed generation’s lack of employability whilst the UK as a whole is losing its competitive edge to highly skilled eurozone rivals. By adapting the education system to one that better fits the demands of a dynamic economy, employers will be more confident in hiring first time workers without worrying about hiring someone unskilled who the company will then have great difficulty in firing should they not perform.

“The government must also look at how the education system can match the needs of business, and so the supply of vacancies available to young people. Job Centre Plus must also play its part in matching young jobseekers to firms,” explains Marshall.

Employment organisations report the need from employers of an education system with a focus on practical skills and STEM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects; fewer regulations and barriers to hiring, and investment in infrastructure to deliver growth that will see demand for labour, instead of simply paying firms to take on unskilled workers during a continent-wide downturn.


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