By Maximilian Clarke

Numbers of unemployed in the UK have risen to a 17-year high, the Office for National Statistics this morning confirmed. Particularly worrying has been a further rise in youth unemployment, which has for the first time passed the 1 million mark.

Business groups, employment experts and trades unions have all responded to the official statistics. Following are a selection of their comments:

The Confederation of British Industry cautions the prospect of large numbers of youth lacking the experience, skills and discipline gained through employment, facing the prospect of long-term unemployment. They call for urgent action to stem to colossal loss of talent from the UK’s labour market. The Confederation’s director-general, John Cridland said:

“These figures underline why we need urgent action to help our young people take their first steps in the labour market. A generation risks being scarred by the devastating effects of long-term unemployment.

“We are calling for action for jobs now, with a clear plan to get the UK working, focusing on our young people. The Chancellor should use his autumn statement to announce a Young Britain Credit, worth £1500, to encourage firms to take on an unemployed 16 to 24 year-old.

“We also need further steps to reform the benefits system to make work really pay and to foster better links between businesses and schools to boost the attractiveness of young people in the labour market.”

Focusing on the youth unemployment, Carmen Watson, managing director of Partemps recruitment, encourages jobless youth to identify transferrable skills that will be beneficial to more rapidly growing job sectors”

“We are in danger of seeing an entire generation of young people that is falling through the holes in the system designed to create employment. It may be too early to expect to see the results of the Government’s Work Programme, which was introduced earlier this year, but in the meantime, thousands more young people are becoming disaffected by the harsh and challenging conditions we’re seeing in the job market.

“Be that as it may, there are steps young people can take to make themselves more employable and avoid joining the ever expanding ranks of long term unemployed people. As well as looking at the opportunities available for temporary work, young people should also look at how their transferrable skills lend themselves to the sectors that are growing at a faster rate than some of the others. Savvy job seekers who do their research into these industries and create a polished persona to present to potential employers will give themselves a huge advantage.”

Ben Pike, Director of QA Apprenticeships, observes that certain career paths remain more open than others, citing IT as a particularly fruitful avenue for career-minded young people:

“These figures come as no surprise and simply continue to add to the doom and gloom stories about job prospects for young people. However, it’s important that we are cautious about scaremongering an impressionable audience. It isn’t helpful and at such a confusing time for them, is making young people downbeat about their future prospects before they even begin to look for work.

“In fact, the future’s not entirely discouraging. There are a number of routes available into employment such as apprenticeships, which are real jobs with real opportunities. They provide a fair salary as well as training and on-the-job experience, enabling young people to not only get into work, but to forge a long-standing career. The IT sector in particular is crying out for people to try their hand at being the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg and apprenticeships are an ideal route in. With the number of graduate jobs shrinking, more must be done to make young people aware of other routes into work that can give young people the boost they need now while plugging potential skills gaps in the future. ”

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